A reduction in salt consumption by people may help decrease the incidences of death, say researchers.
Making a presentation at the American Heart Association's 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, University of California-San Francisco researchers said that for every gram of salt that people reduce in their diets daily, a quarter of a million fewer new heart disease cases and over 200,000 fewer deaths would occur over a decade.
The researchers revealed that the results were derived from a validated computer-simulation of heart disease among U.S. adults.
"A very modest decrease in the amount of salt - hardly detectable in the taste of food - can have dramatic health benefits for the US. It was a surprise to see the magnitude of the impact on the population, given the very small reductions in salt that we were modelling," said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology at the university.
The researchers say that a 3-gram-a-day reduction in salt intake could result in six percent fewer cases of new heart disease, eight percent fewer heart attacks, and three percent fewer deaths.
They said that African Americans, who are more likely to have high blood pressure and whose blood pressure may be more sensitive to salt, could derive even more health benefits.
They reckoned that among African Americans, new heart disease cases could be reduced by 10 percent, heart attacks by 13 percent, and deaths by six percent.
"It's clear that we need to lower salt intake, but individuals find it hard to make substantial cuts because most salt comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker," Bibbins-Domingo said.
"Our study suggests that the food industry and those who regulate it could contribute substantially to the health of the nation by achieving even small reductions in the amount of salt in these processed foods," the researcher added.
Because the majority of salt in the diet comes from prepared and packaged foods, the results of the study reveal the need for regulatory changes or voluntary actions by the food industry to make achievable changes in heart health, Bibbins-Domingo said.
The researchers say that they will next try to assess the cost-effectiveness of various interventions already being used to reduce salt consumption in other countries, including industry collaborations, regulations and labelling changes.