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Salt Deadliest Ingredient Contributing To Stroke

Salt The Deadliest Ingredient Contributing To Stroke

Health experts on risk factors for cardiovascular disease (stroke and heart attacks) are saying that salt intake is the worst contributor of all to the disease - worse than smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Dr Harry McNaughton, Hon Medical Director of the Stroke Foundation says that research has shown that the amount of salt intake is related to the increased possibility of stroke.

“The sodium in salt works in the body to increase systolic blood pressure, which in turn, increases the risk of stroke,” said McNaughton

Re-analysis data of the large Intersalt study demonstrated that most, if not all, of the rise in systolic blood pressure with age typically seen in western populations can be explained by the excessive salt intake that characterises these populations.

“The clear message is that a reduction of salt (sodium) intake will assist in stroke prevention by lowering blood pressure,” said McNaughton

On average, New Zealanders consume approximately 9 grams of salt per day, which is above the current World Health Organisation recommended intake level of between 3 to 6 grams per day depending on body mass.

Sources of salt consumption break down as follows: approximately 10 percent is naturally present in foods; 75 percent is food additive in manufactured foods; and 15 percent is added to food in cooking or at the table.

The University of Auckland’s Clinical Trials Research Unit is currently collaborating with the George Institute for International Health on the China Salt Substitute Study (CSSS), which aims to determine the long-term effects of a low-sodium, high-potassium salt substitute on blood pressure among people at high risk from cardiovascular disease in Northern China.

It is anticipated the findings of the China Salt Substitute Study will be enormously useful in helping to find an alternative to salt. This could have major repercussions on the food industry as food manufacturers are encouraged to replace salt in food processing with an alternative that has limited side effects.

Experts say any serious attempt to reduce salt intake must address the use of salt by industry as an additive in the production of manufactured foods, as such a wide range of foods is involved and significant reductions in intake will not be gained unless across-the board-reductions in the use of salt as an additive can be achieved.

The main food groups contributing to salt intake include:
Food Group Typical Sodium Content (mg/100g) Typical Daily intake of good (g/d) Share of total salt intake from manufactured foods (rounded to nearest %)
Breads 500 150 30
Processed Meats 1200 25 12
Cakes & Biscuits 300 20 6
Breakfast Cereals 500 25 5
Spreads including margarines, butters 500 20 4
Cheese 600 15 4
All others Variable Variable 39
As a guide, 0.5 grams of sodium per 100g or more is a lot of sodium per 100g food, for example cornflakes, bacon, sausages. Even bread, not normally considered to be a high salt food, contains an equivalent salt concentration to 50% seawater i.e. 0.5g sodium per 100g.salt whereas 0.1grams or less per 100g is perfectly ok.

Sodium is not the only nutritional factor affecting blood pressure: increasing fruit and vegetable intake will lower blood pressure by increasing potassium intake and so reducing the sodium: potassium ratio; as will increasing physical activity and reducing alcohol consumption.

“It is possible to use potassium rather than sodium based salts but the point is that you don’t need to have the current levels of salt. Evidence shows that if salt content in foods is reduced gradually, people don’t notice any difference in flavour,” said McNaughton.

New Zealanders wanting to cut down on their salt intake can: compare food labels for salt content and choose the lowest content; purchase foods marked low salt where available; remove the salt cellar where available; stop using or reduce the amount of salt in cooking, make their own salt free bread, cakes and biscuits – or at the very least, check the salt content of bought products.

For FREE information or to donate dial 0800 78 76 53 Telecom customers can text the word STROKE to 883 for an automatic $3 donation -ends-

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