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Adding extra salt to food linked to premature death risk

Monday July 11th 2022

Adding extra salt to food at the table could lead to an increased risk of dying prematurely from any cause, a study published today has said.

The US-led research, which analysed data from 501,379 people taking part in the UK Biobank study, found that compared to those who never or rarely added salt, those who always added salt to their food had a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely.

In the general population about three in every 100 people aged between 40 and 69 die prematurely, but this study suggests that always adding salt to food could lead to another individual in every hundred dying prematurely in this age group.

Writing in the *European Heart Journal*, they also found a lower life expectancy among people who always added salt compared to those who never, or rarely added salt.

At the age of 50, 1.5 years and 2.28 years were knocked off the life expectancy of women and men, respectively, who always added salt to their food compared to those who never, or rarely, did.

The researchers, led by Professor Lu Qi, of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, say their findings have several public health implications.

“To my knowledge, our study is the first to assess the relation between adding salt to foods and premature death,” he said.

“It provides novel evidence to support recommendations to modify eating behaviours for improving health. Even a modest reduction in sodium intake, by adding less or no salt to food at the table, is likely to result in substantial health benefits, especially when it is achieved in the general population.”

Because of the difficulties in assessing overall sodium intake, the researchers looked at whether or not people added salt to their foods at the table, independent of any salt added during cooking.

“Adding salt to foods at the table is a common eating behaviour that is directly related to an individual’s long-term preference for salty-tasting foods and habitual salt intake,” said Prof Qi.

“In the Western diet, adding salt at the table accounts for 6-20% of total salt intake and provides a unique way to evaluate the association between habitual sodium intake and the risk of death.”

The examined data, which included people joining the UK Biobank study between 2006 and 2010, involved the participants asking, via a touch screen questionnaire, if they added salt to their foods: never/rarely; sometimes; usually; always. If they chose not to answer, they were eliminated from the analysis.

The team followed the participants for a median of nine years and premature death was defined as death before the age of 75 years.

They also found the risks of premature death were reduced slightly in people who consumed the highest amounts of fruit and vegetables, although these results were not statistically significant.

Prof Qi said because the study is the first to report a relation between adding salt to foods and mortality, further studies are needed to validate the findings before making recommendations.

He and his colleagues are to undertake further studies on the relation between adding salt to foods and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Ma H et al. Adding salt to foods and hazard of premature mortality. European Heart Journal 11 July 2022; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehac208


Tags: Diet & Food | Europe | Heart Health | North America | UK News

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