Salt reduction will prevent nearly 200,000 cases of heart disease and save £1.64bn
New researched published today in the journal Hypertension by researchers at Queen Mary University shows England’s salt reduction programme will have led to nearly 200,000 fewer adults developing heart disease and £1.64 billion of healthcare cost savings by 2050. However, the researchers warn that the recent stalling of salt reduction programmes is endangering the potential health gains, as salt intake remains significantly higher than recommended levels.
The research used 2000-2018 population survey salt intake data and disease burden data to project the impact of the salt reduction programme, and found that:
- The 2003 to 2018 salt reduction programme in England achieved an overall salt intake reduction of 1 gram/day per adult, from 9.38 grams/day in 2000 to 8.38 grams/day in 2018.
- If 2018 salt intake levels are maintained, by 2050 the programme would have led to 193,870 fewer adults developing premature cardiovascular disease (comprising 83,140 cases of premature ischaemic heart disease and 110,730 premature strokes), and £1.64 billion of health care cost savings for the adult population of England.
- If the World Health Organization recommended salt intake of 5 grams/day is achieved by 2030 in England, these benefits could double, preventing a further 213,880 premature cardiovascular disease cases and further health and social care savings to the UK government of £5.33 billion.
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Lead researcher Professor Borislava Mihaylova from Queen Mary University of London said: “Our results are striking because of the large health benefits that we see with an effective government policy of reducing salt in everyday food products. These gains could be seriously endangered if the policy is weakened. The stalling of salt reduction efforts in the past few years is now eating away at the potential population health gains and is costing our health service dearly. Over the last few years, quantities of salt in diets have remained steady at levels much higher than recommended. If we can reduce our salt intake to the recommended 5g per day, we will double health benefits and healthcare savings by the year 2050.”
Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Salt said: “This study shows the enormous health benefits and cost effectiveness of the gradual reduction in salt intake in the UK that occurred between 2003-2011. Since then, the food industry has stopped reducing the excessive amounts of salt they add to our food (80 per cent of our intake) due largely to government inaction. It’s now time for Downing Street to take decisive measures in forcing the food industry to comply. If not, many more thousands of people will suffer unnecessary strokes and heart attacks.”
Journal details: Impact of the 2003 to 2018 Population Salt Intake Reduction Program in England - A Modeling Study’. Sergi Alonso, Monique Tan, Changqiong Wang, Seamus Kent, Linda Cobiac, Graham A. MacGregor, Feng J. He, Borislava Mihaylova. Hypertension. DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.16649.