Why Consuming Too Much Salt Is Literally Killing Us

Most of us don't think twice about the amount of salt that may or may not be hidden in our food. But here's a very good reason to be more curious: consuming too much salt leads to more than 1.6 million heart disease-related deaths around the world each year.

Scientists based the finding on an analysis of 205 surveys of sodium intake in countries representing nearly three-quarters of the world's adult population.

Effects of sodium on blood pressure and heart disease risk were determined in a separate study of pooled trial data.

The average level of sodium consumption in 2010 was found to be 3.95 grams per day - nearly double the two grammes recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In total, the researchers calculated that 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular disease occurred each year as a result of consuming more than the WHO limit.

Lead scientist Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, from Tufts University in the US, said: "High sodium intake is known to increase blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke.

"These 1.65 million deaths represent nearly one in 10 of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide. No world region and few countries were spared."

Salt, used in cooking, sprinkled on food, or incorporated into food products, is far and away the biggest dietary source of sodium.

The research, published in the the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that people in the US on average consumed 3.6 grammes of sodium per day.

Sodium intake around the world ranged from 2.18 grammes per day in sub-Saharan Africa to 5.51 grammes per day in central Asia.

Co-author John Powles, from Cambridge University, said: "We found that four out of five global deaths attributable to higher than recommended sodium intakes occurred in middle- and low-income countries.

"Programmes to reduce sodium intake could provide a practical and cost effective means for reducing premature deaths in adults around the world."

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