A simple decision could save thousands of lives – scientists are pushing for cutting salt

If you could save thousands of lives and prevent a lot of suffering with a simple decision, would you do it? Unfortunately, entire industries are facing such decision, but it is unlikely anything will change. A new study from the Victoria University says that simply cutting salt from meals could save 3500 lives a year.

Even if you think you’re not using a lot of salt when you’re cooking, food you buy may be loaded with salt. Image credit: Poyraz 72 via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

You know that salt is not good for you in big quantities and you probably mind how much of it you’re putting in your food. However, food manufacturers are looking for other qualities, such as taste and attractiveness, instead of health benefits. Pre-packaged meals are full of salt and are still enjoyed by many people around the world. Scientists say that they are responsible for a great deal of overconsumption of salt – a problem which is one of primary causes of chronic diseases such as kidney, stroke and heart disease in Australian population.

Scientists are asking the government to do something to reduce the concentration of salt in pre-packaged foods. They say that a simple reformulation could save about 3500 lives each year and prevent chronic diseases including kidney, stroke and heart disease. While using too much salt is always bad, pre-packaged foods are especially bad, because people don’t know how much salt they are eating exactly. And reformulation would be an effective solution – we’ve already seen it working with folic acid fortification reduced the number of cases of neural tube defects.

On average every adult 8.1 grams of salt per day, while World Health Organisation recommends no more than 5 grams per day. In Australia most of this amount comes from processed food, which is why scientists are calling for the change in policy. Dr Rebeca Lindberg, lead researcher of this study, said: “The UK, Argentina and South Africa are leading the world in decreasing population salt levels. Food reformulation is one of the best-buys for government as it is highly cost-effective, very cheap and extremely feasible”. Therefore, the government now has the information basis to start the change.

While this research was done having Australia in mind, its results translate well into other countries as well. You may not be putting too much salt or sugar into your food, but how much there already is in your pre-packaged food? Do you read labels? Reformulation is a good method of changing that, but the industry needs a push from the government.


Source: Victoria University

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