Scientists from The George Institute found that replacing regular household salt with potassium-enriched salt substitutes in China could prevent nearly half a million cardiovascular deaths per year
They found that overall, the blood pressure lowering effects of salt substitution could prevent around 460,000 heart disease deaths each year, including 208,000 due to stroke and 175,000 due to heart disease.
They were also estimated to prevent some 743,000 non-fatal heart disease events each year, including 365,000 strokes and 147,000 heart attacks, and decrease rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) by around 120,000 each year, or almost seven percent of new cases.
The team says said that replacing regular salt with potassium-enriched salt substitutes combines the blood pressure lowering effects of reduced sodium and increased potassium intake.
An important part of this study was to look at the potential benefits of blood pressure reduction at the same time as the possible risk to people with CKD from increased potassium intake.
The researchers said that concerns about the potential risk of increased potassium intake in people with CKD were particularly relevant in China where most people with CKD are unaware of their condition.
The study suggests that with this type of intervention, the benefits greatly outweigh the harms to the overall population. In fact, even among individuals with CKD, there are substantial net benefits.
Eating too much salt increases blood pressure, which is one of the biggest contributors to premature death from stroke or heart disease.
Worldwide, excess salt intake is estimated to cause about three million deaths each year.
In China, sodium intake is more than double the WHO-recommended limit, and nearly half of Chinese people aged 35-75 have high blood pressure.
Almost 30 percent of fatal strokes in Chinese people aged under 70 are attributable to high sodium consumption.
In contrast to most Western countries, the largest contributor of dietary sodium in China is discretionary salt (i.e., salt added in the home during cooking or at the table), contributing to about two-thirds of sodium intake.
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The research was published in the British Medical Journal and conducted by Dr. Jason Wu et al.
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