N.E.J.M. study shows benefits of sodium reduction

by Keith Nunes
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BOSTON — “Modest reductions in dietary salt may substantially reduce cardiovascular events and medical costs and should be a public health target,” according to the conclusion of an article titled “Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease” and published on-line by The New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 20.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco; Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.; and Columbia University, New York, used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model to quantify the benefits of population-wide reductions in dietary salt of up to 3 grams per day (1,200 mg of sodium per day). The model is a computer simulation developed to project the future mortality, morbidity and cost of coronary heart disease (C.H.D.) in the U.S. population.

“Reducing dietary salt by 3 grams per day is projected to reduce the annual number of new cases of C.H.D. by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction by 54,000 to 99,000 and to reduce the annual number of deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000,” according to the results of the study. “All segments of the population would benefit, with blacks benefiting proportionately more, women benefiting particularly from stroke reduction, older adults from reductions in C.H.D. events, and younger adults from lower mortality rates.”

Of particular interest to food and beverage manufacturers is the suggestion by the researchers that a regulatory intervention to achieve a reduction of salt intake of 3 grams per day would save up to 392,000 “quality-adjusted life years” and $10 billion to $24 billion in health costs annually.

The full study may be viewed by visiting www.nejm.org.

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