The National Heart Foundation of Australia has found that if everyone reduced their salt intake by 3 grams per day, 6 000 lives could be saved every year.
High intake of salt has been linked to heart disease high blood pressure, often referred to as “the silent killer,” which can lead to stroke.
The average Australian eats about d nine grams of salt a day per day, despite the Heart Foundation’s recommended maximum of six grams for healthy people and four grams for people with existing high blood pressure or heart disease.
Dr Robert Grenfell, Clinical Issues Director at the Heart Foundation said that merely cutting down salt by 3 grams per day could prevent 6 000 deaths per year.
“Research suggests that if we cut the nation’s salt intake by an average of three grams a day, we could prevent 6,000 deaths in Australia every year.
“Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.”
The misunderstanding about where salt is found has been a contributing factor to the increase in diseases, as many people are unaware how much salt is in supposedly ‘healthy’ foods, including bread, soups and sauces.
Extremely high levels of salt are also found in processed foods like chips, crisps, dips and fast foods, and while people know these foods are not good for them, many do not understand the impact of high salt consumption, or how much is a healthy intake.
The Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue, which the Heart Foundation is part of, is working towards making processed foods healthier by reducing salt levels in breads, soups, sauces, and other foods.
About 1000 tonnes of salt is already being removed from the Australian food supply every year due to the Dialogue, but Grenfell said more needs to be done.
“While the Dialogue has made a good start, increased funding is desperately needed to really super-charge the food reformulation agenda by introducing targets for more food categories more quickly and supporting that work with public education campaigns.”
In September, a report in the Australian Medical Journal (AMJ) showed more improvements could be made to salt levels in breads, because voluntary reduction across Australia and New Zealand was not enough.
“While there has been some improvement in sodium levels in New Zealand, and while the companies actively engaged in salt reduction efforts are to be congratulated, our data also highlight the need for continued action,” the report said.
“Better results are likely to be achieved if the governments of Australia and New Zealand take committed leadership of these programs.”
However, a Deakin University study released in March found that a “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.
Participants were asked to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”
Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.
While it is clear that salt levels need to be reduced, the study found, better initiatives are needed to encourage lower intakes.