How Far Should Salt Intake Be Reduced?
The current public health recommendations are to reduce salt intake from 9 to 12 g/d to 5 to 6 g/d. However, these values are based on what is feasible rather than the maximum effect of salt reduction. In a meta-analysis of longer-term trials, we looked at the dose response between salt reduction and fall in blood pressure and compared this with 2 well-controlled studies of 3 different salt intakes. All 3 studies demonstrated a consistent dose response to salt reduction within the range of 12 to 3 g/d. A reduction of 3 g/d predicts a fall in blood pressure of 3.6 to 5.6/1.9 to 3.2 mm Hg (systolic/diastolic) in hypertensives and 1.8 to 3.5/0.8 to 1.8 mm Hg in normotensives. The effect would be doubled with a 6 g/d reduction and tripled with a 9 g/d reduction. A conservative estimate indicates that a reduction of 3 g/d would reduce strokes by 13% and ischemic heart disease (IHD) by 10%. The effects would be almost doubled with a 6 g/d reduction and tripled with a 9 g/d reduction. Reducing salt intake by 9 g/d (eg, from 12 to 3 g/d) would reduce strokes by approximately one third and IHD by one quarter, and this would prevent ≈20 500 stroke deaths and 31 400 IHD deaths a year in the United Kingdom. The current recommendations to reduce salt intake from 9 to 12 g/d to 5 to 6 g/d will have a major effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease but are not ideal. A further reduction to 3 g/d will have a much greater effect and should now become the long-term target for population salt intake worldwide.
- Received June 23, 2003.
- Revision received July 15, 2003.
- Accepted October 10, 2003.