Most adults exceed the World Health Organization recommended maximum
salt intake of 2g per day, resulting in an estimated 1,648,000 annual
deaths from heart diseases worldwide.
Previous studies in selected countries show that national policies
to reduce excess salt intake can be highly cost effective for lowering
blood pressure and reducing heart disease. But for most countries, the
cost effectiveness of such a policy is unknown.
‘A government policy to reduce salt intake by 10% over 10 years would be highly cost effective in nearly every country in the world.’
A government policy to reduce salt intake by 10% over 10 years would
be highly cost effective in nearly every country in the world, even
without accounting for healthcare savings, suggests a study published by The BMJ
The researchers say that this low cost policy combining targeted
industry agreements and public education to reduce salt intake is a
"best buy" for governments around the world.
A team of US and UK based researchers led by Tufts University in
Boston, set out to measure the cost effectiveness of a "soft regulation"
strategy combining targeted industry agreements and public education to
reduce salt intake by 10% over 10 years in 183 countries.
To account for differences, they modeled the costs and health
effects of a range of salt reductions by age and sex within each
They then estimated the number of disability-adjusted life years or
DALYs (a measure of years lost due to ill-health) that would be averted
by the policy in each country for each year between 2011 and 2020.
Program costs for each country were estimated in international
dollars or I$ (equivalent to the country's purchasing power of US
dollars). Potential healthcare savings from averted events were not
evaluated to provide conservative estimates.
The results show that worldwide, a 10% reduction in salt consumption
over 10 years within each country was projected to avert approximately
5.8 million DALYs per year related to cardiovascular diseases, at a
population weighted average cost of $1.13 per person over the 10 year
Globally, the estimated average cost effectiveness ratio of the 10
year intervention was around I$204 per DALY saved (not accounting for
potential healthcare savings from averted events). This compares
favorably with cost effectiveness ratios for many drugs used to prevent
cardiovascular disease, say the authors.
They point out some study limitations, but say their results,
together with prior studies in selected countries, "provide evidence
that a national policy for reduction in sodium intake is highly cost
effective, and substantially more so than even highly cost effective
medical prevention strategies."
This suggests that a national reduction in sodium intake is a "best
buy" for governments, deserving careful consideration for adoption by
countries worldwide, they conclude.