Less salt more veges for health

08 April 2013

Overseas research shows that even modest reductions in salt intake can lower blood pressure and result in major reductions in strokes and heart attacks.

An international programme called World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) has just released the results of the latest research, published in the British Medical Journal.

Two of the studies (done in the United Kingdom) show that small reductions in salt intake can lower blood pressure without adverse effects and are associated with major reductions in strokes and heart attacks, the most common cause of death and disability in the UK.

The third study published shows that increasing potassium intake also lowers blood pressure and reduces strokes, says WASH programme leader, Clare Farrand from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, at the University of London.

“There is also evidence that the combination of reducing salt intake and increasing potassium is likely to have the greatest effect,” she says.

“The study shows the importance of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and suggests in the rare cases where reducing salt is technically too difficult, it is recommended that manufacturers substitute salt with potassium.”

The University of Auckland research fellow, Dr Helen Eyles from the National Institute of Health Innovations at Tamaki, says that similar to the UK population, we know that the majority of New Zealanders are consuming far more sodium or salt than is needed for good health.

“What these studies indicate is that most New Zealanders, whether they have high blood pressure or not, would benefit from reducing their sodium or salt intake,” she says.

“It’s important to note that blood pressure can be reduced by increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables. But fresh fruit and vegetables in particular can be expensive.”

“It is vital for the health of New Zealanders that we find cost effective and equitable ways of reducing dietary sodium and increasing fruit and vegetable intake,” she says.

“Doing so would not only improve population blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, but would reduce the burden and cost of these health issues on our public health system,” says Dr Eyles.

Reducing dietary sodium has been identified as one of the most promising public health strategies and is strongly supported by the World Health Organisation. Research indicates it is also likely to be highly cost effective, she says.

For more information contact:

Suzi Phillips Media Relations Advisor The University of Auckland s.phillips@auckland.ac.nz Mob 021 416 396 Phone +64 9 373 7599 ext 87383