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Salt-reduction campaign led to drastic decrease in deaths from stroke, heart disease

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A nationwide campaign to reduce salt intake among people in the United Kingdom resulted in a drastic reduction in heart disease and stroke deaths among the population, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 2003, the government in the U.K. launched a widespread effort to encourage companies to gradually reduce sodium levels in processed foods. Now, a new study in the British Medical Journal is showing the impact of this public health initiative.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 31,500 people participating in the Health Survey for England between 2003 to 2011. During the study period, levels of salt intake among the population decreased by about 15 percent. Over the same period, deaths from stroke decreased by 42 percent and deaths from coronary heart disease dropped by 40 percent.

Rates of smoking and overall cholesterol levels in the population declined over the same period, while produce intake and body mass index both increased. The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London, noted that the single largest factor contributing to the decline in deaths was decreased blood pressure among the population.

Some physicians noted that the U.K. has been far more proactive and successful at enforcing the reduction of sodium in foods, compared to the U.S.

"In the U.K., the political action group ‘Action on Salt’ worked with the government and the food industry to slowly wean the British populace off salt, with excellent results. Yet, our food industry has fought a similar action tooth and nail,” Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times.

Click for more from the Los Angeles Times.