Take with a big pinch of salt

2016-03-31 06:00

GOVERNMENTS and health advocates globally have been pushing companies for years to reduce salt in processed foods, and for us to eat less salt.

That was based on scientific research showing that dietary salt causes hypertension (high blood pressure), a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

In South Africa, Woolworths was one of the first food chains to announce it was reducing the salt content of its products. Worldwide, people have been eating less salt in processed foods.

That’s good, right? Maybe not. Salt has always been in our diets. Some scientists have stayed sceptical about the benefits of a low-salt diet because the totality of evidence isn’t there to support it as the best way to prevent heart disease.

In 2014, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a major study showing that while a high sodium intake increases blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the effects of sodium intake on global cardiovascular mortality are “uncertain”. In the same edition, the NEJM published another study showing that while higher levels of sodium intake are associated with higher blood pressure, it is not known if this relationship varies according to levels of sodium or potassium intake and in different populations. - Supplied.

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