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Study: One in 10 U.S. deaths blamed on salt

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's always something. Alongside a recent report that sugary soft drinks are responsible for the deaths of a 25,000 Americans annually, a new research suggests salty food is even more dangerous. The main problem, salt, or sodium is even more dangerous and insidious. "The burden of sodium is much higher than the burden of sugar-sweetened beverages," Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health says. "That's because sugar-sweetened beverages are just one type of food that people can avoid, whereas sodium is in everything."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - In the salt study, compiled by the same Harvard research team that examined sugary snacks, excessive salt consumption was linked to nearly 2.3 million cardiovascular deaths worldwide in 2010. Furthermore, one in 10 Americans dies from eating too much salt, the researchers found.

Mozaffarian along with his colleagues used data from 247 surveys on sodium intake and 107 clinical trials that measured how salt affects blood pressure. In turn, researchers examined how blood pressure contributes to cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and stroke.

"From that we could determine the health effects of sodium," he said, adding that one out of three deaths due to excessive sodium occurred before age 70. "It's really affecting younger adults, not just the elderly."

Presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in New Orleans, the study adds to mounting evidence that packaged and processed foods containing high levels of salt for flavor and shelf life can take a heavy toll on cardiovascular health.

"It's really amazing how pervasive it is," Mozaffarian says. "For the average person, it's very hard to avoid salt - you have to be incredibly motivated, incredibly educated, have access to a range of foods and do all the cooking yourself."

But not everything is easy to whip up at home, Mozaffarian added. Bread and cheese are the top two sources of sodium in the U.S. "It's everywhere," he said.

In protest, the Salt Institute took issue with the unrealistic threshold.

"This misleading study did not measure any actual cardiovascular deaths related to salt intake, since, by the authors' own admission, no country anywhere in the world consumes the low levels of salt they recommend," Morton Satin, vice president of science and research for the Virginia-based institute said in a statement.

Satin also said that the research, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, "reveals an agenda far more rooted in sensationalist politics than in science.

"The Salt Institute does not consider this misleading modeling exercise helpful in furthering our knowledge of the role of salt on our health," Satin said. "On the contrary, it is disingenuous and disrespectful of consumers."

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