Salt and Your Health: Update

Ever since New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced his plans to reduce the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant foods by 25 percent over the next five years, salt has been getting a lot of attention.  We're now two weeks into the 2010 "Salt talks," but is there any more clarity?  The short answer is yes.

In yesterday's New York Times, there's new scientific analysis to support Mayor Bloomberg's quest to reduce salt intake:

In a scientific analysis published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco; Stanford University; and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons calculated that if Americans reduced their salt intake by half a teaspoon a day, or three grams (the equivalent of 1,200 milligrams of sodium, the health culprit in salt), the nation would save up to $24 billion a year in health care costs.

The research team, led by Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at U.C.S.F., concluded that even a much more modest reduction — one gram a day, achieved gradually by the year 2019 — "would be more cost-effective than using medications to lower blood pressure in all persons with hypertension."

And money is not the only thing that would be saved. The researchers calculated that the half-teaspoon reduction would "reduce the annual number of new cases of coronary heart disease by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction [heart attack] by 54,000 to 99,000, and reduce the annual number of deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000."

Photo credit Tony Cenicola and full article at the New York Times

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