In September, a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion calculated that Americans could eliminate 11 million cases of hypertension, save $18 billion in medical costs and add 312,000 years to our collective lives by reducing our daily sodium intake from about 3,300 milligrams per day to the recommended daily maximum of 2,300 milligrams.
Get developments in medicine, nutrition and fitness delivered to your inbox with our The Health Report newsletter. Sign up »
Still not convinced? Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System recently entered the fray with their own analysis.
They used a computer model to estimate what would what happen if U.S. consumers and food makers copied a British salt-reduction campaign. Their conclusions: Americans age 40 to 85 would cut their salt intake by 9.5%, preventing strokes in 513,885 people and heart attacks in 480,358 others. Total savings to the healthcare system would top $32 billion, according to their study, published March 1 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
They also ran a computer model using another popular idea — a sin tax aimed at salt. The hypothetical salt tax was less effective, cutting salt intake by only 6% and preventing 327,892 strokes and 306,173 heart attacks. The researchers said they thought the salt tax was less feasible than voluntary efforts by the food industry to cut sodium in their products.
The researchers also noted that cutting back on salt could have the unintended consequence of motivating consumers to eat more foods made with fat and sugar, which present their own health risks.
For those who are motivated to cut some of the salt out of their diets — or at least give it a try — the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers a list of tips at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/sodium/tips.htm.