Briefing

A 15 percent reduction in salt consumption was likely “an important contributor” to a 40 percent reduction in stroke and heart disease deaths in the last decade in England, researchers say.

The “single largest” contribution to the decline in deaths was a decrease in blood pressure, they said.

Smoking and blood cholesterol also declined over the period, 2003-11; produce consumption and body mass index rose. At the same time, there were improvements in treatment for high blood pressure and heart disease, they said in the online British Medical Journal Open.

The government in 2003 began a program to get companies gradually to reduce the salt levels in processed foods. It led to a 15 percent decrease by 2011, the researchers wrote. Since the start of that program, salt intake fell by 1.4 grams a day.

Because processed foods account for about 80 percent of total salt intake, and the industry undertook a gradual reduction in salt added to all such foods, the researchers said, it’s likely that the salt reduction occurred across the population.

But, they wrote, “It is difficult to quantify the relative contribution of salt reduction” to the diseases, but analysis of the data around the disease and deaths show it had a “significant role.”

— Los Angeles Times