We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”
A significant proportion of meat-free burgers, sausages and mince contain unacceptable levels of salt, a campaign group has found. According to Action on Salt, 28% of the 157 meat substitute products studied by them did not meet Public Health England (PHE) voluntary salt targets. In some cases, products were found to be saltier than Atlantic seawater, the report says. Action on Salt is calling on PHE to take “urgent action” to make food manufacturers adhere to maximum recommended salt levels. Out of all the meat-free products investigated by Action on Salt, only three were found to be low in salt. Tofurky's Deli Slices Hickory Smoked and Tesco's Meat Free Bacon Style Rashers were the saltiest meat substitutes studied, containing, 3.5g and 3.2g of salt per 100g respectively. PHE's salt target for meat-free bacon is 1.88g of salt per 100g. For comparison, seawater has around 2.5g of salt per 100g. While their meat-free bacon was found to be extremely high in salt, Tesco’s Meat-Free Mince had one of the lowest salt levels of all the products analysed – just 0.2g of salt per 100g. Speaking about the findings of the study, Mhairi Brown, nutritionist at Action on Salt, said: “The food industry has ensured greater availability of meat-free alternatives, but now they must do more to ensure that meat-free alternatives contain far less salt - at the very least lower than their meat equivalents. “This survey drives home the urgent need for Public Health England to reinvigorate the UK's salt reduction strategy.”
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with an urge to go to the toilet? A new study from Japan suggests that it could be linked with the amount of salt you consume. For the study, researchers from Nagasaki University analysed more than 300 volunteers. They found that a reduced salt intake caused people to urinate less in the middle of the night. The problem - called nocturia - is thought to mainly affect people over the age of 60. It disrupts sleep and can have a significant impact on people's lives. Presenting their findings at the European Society of Urology congress in London, the researchers said that a sensible diet could help to improve the symptoms of nocturia. During the study, patients with a high salt intake were advised to cut back. Instead of needing the toilet more than twice a night their trips dropped to just one. As a result, their quality of life also improved. To add extra weight to the study's findings, 98 volunteers were asked to eat more salt than normal. They found they went to the toilet more often at night time. Study author Dr Matsuo Tomohiro said that while larger studies were needed to confirm the link, the results could still offer help for older people. "This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people," he said.
It's been widely accepted for some time that a high-salt diet may increase a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. But now a new study has found that a low-salt diet may also be just as dangerous. Published in The Lancet, the findings of the study suggest that people who have a low salt or sodium intake may be increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, compared to those who have an average intake. In fact, the study, which was conducted by researchers at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, says that the only people who should look to reduce their salt consumption are those with high blood pressure. Furthermore, the researchers say that current salt consumption guidelines may be too low, and should be reviewed going forward. At present, it is recommended that Americans consume no more than 2,300mg of salt each day, which is about 1 teaspoon. However, around 90% of US adults exceed this recommendation on a regular basis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released earlier this year. On the other hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people eat between 5 and 6g of salt each day. The lead author of the study, Andrew Mente, said: "While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels." Despite the study focusing on 130,000 people across 49 countries, its methods have been criticised by experts, while others have questioned the study's findings. The bottom line? Salt should be consumed in moderation, and people with high blood pressure should seek specific medical advice to find out what is best for them.