Adding salt to foods amplifies risk of premature death

July 12, 2022
Adding salt to foods amplifies risk of premature death

Extra sprinkles of salt to your food will increase your chances of dying prematurely – a study of more than half a million people found that those who always added salt to their food had a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely from any cause, compared to those who never or rarely added salt. Researchers from the European Society of Cardiology also found a lower life expectancy among study participants who always added salt to their food.

The researchers, led by Professor Lu Qi, of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, US, chose to look at whether people added salt to their foods at the table as prepackaged and processed foods already contain high levels of salt that would be difficult to measure.

“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 Professor 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.”

When asked if they added salt to their food right before eating, 501,379 people from the UK Biobank study responded positively. As well as finding that always adding salt to foods was linked to a higher risk of premature death and a reduction in life expectancy, the researchers found that these risks tended to be reduced slightly in people who consumed the highest amounts of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium and are known to protect against cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, whereas sodium increases the risk of conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure and stroke.

Meanwhile, Swedish Professor Annika Rosengren, professor of medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, suggests that choosing not to add salt to foods is unlikely to be harmful. Unfortunately, a very low intake of sodium is also not beneficial.

She concluded: “[…] salt-reduction strategies will lower population mean blood pressure levels, resulting in fewer people developing hypertension, needing treatment, and becoming sick. Not adding extra salt to food could [also] contribute to strategies to lower population blood pressure levels.”

Category: Features, Health alert

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