Salt, as we all know is not healthy and doctors have asked to avoid it to the maximum. A new study shows that people, who add extra salt to their food at the table are at higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause,
The study was held in 5,00,000 people and the results came up in the European Heart Journal. The researchers showed that people who always added salt to their food had a 28 per cent increased risk of dying prematurely. In the general population about three in every hundred people aged between 40 and 69 die prematurely. The increased risk from always adding salt to food seen in the current study suggests that one more person in every hundred may die prematurely in this age group.
The study also showed that a lower life expectancy among people who always added salt compared to those who never, or rarely added salt. At the age of 50, 1.5 years and 2.28 years were knocked off the life expectancy of women and men, respectively, who always added salt to their food compared to those who never, or rarely, did.
Professor Lu Qi of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, USA led the study. Claiming that the study was the first to assess the relation between adding salt to foods and premature death, Lu Qi said “it provides novel evidence to support recommendations to modify eating behaviours 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.” The researchers said that assessing overall sodium intake was difficult as many foods, particularly pre-prepared and processed foods, have high levels of salt added before they even reach the table.
Most of the studies assessing salt intake by means of urine tests often only take one urine test and so do not necessarily reflect usual behaviour. In addition, foods that are high in salt are often accompanied by foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables. Potassium is known to protect against the risk of heart diseases and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, whereas sodium increases the risk of conditions such as cancer, high blood pressure and stroke. This difficulty was what prompted the researchers to look at people who added salt to their foods at the table, independent of any salt added during cooking.
Adding salt to foods at the table is a common eating behaviour that is directly related to an individuals long-term preference for salty-tasting foods and habitual salt intake,” said Prof. Qi. “In the Western diet, adding salt at the table accounts for 6-20% of total salt intake and provides a unique way to evaluate the association between habitual sodium intake and the risk of death.”
The researchers analysed data from 501,379 people taking part in the UK Biobank study. When joining the study between 2006 and 2010, the participants were asked, via a touch-screen questionnaire, whether they added salt to their foods (i) never/rarely. (ii) sometimes, (iii) usually. (iv) always, or (v) prefer not to answer. Those who preferred not to answer were not included in the analysis.
The researchers adjusted their analyses to take account of factors that could affect outcomes, such as age, sex, race, deprivation, body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, diet and medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart and blood vessel diseases. They followed the participants for a median (average) of nine years. Premature death was defined as death before the age of 75 years. As well as finding that always adding salt to foods was linked to a higher risk of premature death from all causes and a reduction in life expectancy, the researchers found that these risks tended to be reduced slightly in people who consumed the highest amounts of fruit and vegetables, although these results were not statistically significant. Qi said that as the study was the first to report a relation between adding salt to foods and mortality. further studies are needed to validate the findings before making recommendations.