Study Links Salt to Premature Death

According to a study involving over 500,000 people, those individuals who are prone to adding salt to their food at the table are more likely to suffer from an early death. The research was published in the European Heart Journal on July 11, 2022.

The findings were based on research involving more than 500,000 participants in the UK Biobank study, who were followed for approximately nine years. When they joined the study between 2006 and 2010, they were asked whether they added salt to their foods and how often they did so.

The results of the study showed that when compared to people who never or rarely added salt to their food, those who regularly did so had a 28 percent higher risk of premature death. Three out of every 100 people in the general population die too young, between the ages of 40 and 69. The new study suggests that an additional 100 people in this age group may experience an early death as a result of constantly salting their food.

Professor Lu Qi of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, USA, has talked about the link between sodium intake and death:

“To my knowledge, our study is the first to assess the relationship between adding salt to foods and premature death,” he said. “It provides novel evidence to support recommendations to modify eating behaviors for improving health. Even a modest reduction in sodium intake, by adding less or no salt to food at the table, is likely to result in substantial health benefits, especially when it is achieved in the general population.”

Why salt is bad for you?

There are two main reasons for concern when adding salt to your food. For once, it is very hard to measure how much salt you are consuming daily because many foods, especially those that are processed and pre-prepared, contain high salt content before they are ever served.

The second reason is that high sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, which can then lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The problem is that, unlike other substances that are bad for our health, the body needs some amount of sodium to work properly. Sodium is a vital nutrient that the body requires to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals. So, it is not about eliminating sodium completely from the diet. 

“Adding salt to foods at the table is a common eating behavior that is directly related to an individual’s long-term preference for salty-tasting foods and habitual salt intake,” said Professor Qi. This additional sodium is a habit that he recommends steering clear from, as it represents an excessive amount, much more than the body needs. 

How much salt is good for you?

Adding salt when cooking seems to be the preferred method, up to 1 tablespoon of salt daily. Everyone that is receiving a healthy amount of sodium through their diet should not be concerned with reducing salt intake, as long as they stay active, and counterbalance salt intake with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. 

The researchers have found that the risk of early death linked to extra salt was reduced slightly among people who ate more fruits and vegetables.

“We were not surprised by this finding, as fruits and vegetables are major sources of potassium, which has protective effects and is associated with a lower risk of premature death,” said Professor Qi. 

However, he clarified that additional studies are needed on this, as this study “is the first to report a relation between adding salt to foods and mortality”.

“Because our study is the first to report a relation between adding salt to foods and mortality, further studies are needed to validate the findings before making recommendations.”

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