Global Policies Urged for Cuts in Dietary Salt

August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011 (London, United Kingdom) — An international push to sharply reduce dietary salt intake at the population level could save millions of lives otherwise lost to cardiovascular disease and billions in healthcare costs around the world, according to a statement published yesterday in BMJ [1].

"Health policy makers and governments have to decide how best to reduce population salt intake at a population level, to save most lives and public money in shrinking economies," according to the statement's authors, led by Dr Francesco P Cappuccio (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK). Efforts aimed solely at changing personal salt-intake behaviors are unlikely to be effective, the group notes, when most dietary salt is added to foods at commercial processing.

They go on to propose a direction for more broad-based comprehensive policies at the national level, one that acknowledges "the huge responsibility of food manufacturers in contributing to the epidemic of cardiovascular disease." Prevention efforts should be "implemented through food reformulation and effective voluntary market intervention or mandatory action throughout the industry."

"Civil society, governments, academia, and health organizations all have a part to play," they write, and recommend a "four-pronged approach" as the common basis for these policies around the world, consisting of:

  • "Establishing and evaluating public-awareness campaigns."

  • "Setting progressive salt targets for reformulating existing processed food and engaging with the food industry in setting standards for new foods."

  • "Surveying population salt intake, progress of reformulation, and effectiveness of communication."

  • "Engagement with industry, including regulation, to create a level playing field so as not to disadvantage more enlightened and progressive companies."

The statement is framed as an accompaniment to the upcoming United Nations High-Level Summit Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, scheduled for September 19-20 in New York City [2].

All four of the authors were part of the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) cardiovascular disease population prevention guideline development group, and some have connections with the World Health Organization (WHO), but their statement doesn't necessarily reflect the views of either NICE or WHO, it notes. They have no financial disclosures.


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