Steep Health Gains Predicted From 'Achievable' Dietary Sodium Goals

February 12, 2013

ATLANTA — In computer simulations, hundreds of thousands of lives were saved, with up to a 10% fall in cardiovascular mortality, over a 10-year period in which the US population showed an "optimistic but potentially achievable" 40% decline in dietary sodium intake [1].

More ambitious scenarios for sodium-intake restriction at the population level achieved even greater hypothetical benefits of stroke and heart-disease prevention.

The analyses, which stemmed from a conference conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), were published in the March 2013 issue of Hypertension with lead author Dr Pamela G Coxson (University of California, San Francisco).

It also suggests hopefully that achieving the sodium-reduction targets across the US would be "a daunting task that [would] likely require multiple layers of interventions," but also that "a key public-health message from this analysis is that the health benefit from sodium reduction is likely to be quite large even across the range of methods used to estimate the impact."

Three approaches for defining the data sets on which the projections were based were applied to each of three sodium-reduction scenarios. One approach was based on clinical-trial results, another on potential survival gains from the blood-pressure–lowering effects of reduced sodium intake, and a third also based on blood pressure but with effects derived from epidemiologic studies.

Of the three populationwide scenarios, the most draconian, in which everyone immediately meets a target intake of 1500 mg/day, was predicted to cut CV deaths by up to 17% to >20% over a decade, depending on data set.

Another scenario, in which the population immediately cuts sodium intake by 40% and maintains the reduction for 10 years, would produce 25% to 30% less benefit than the 1500-mg/day target, according to the group.

And "the more realistic goal" of a 4% annual decrease over 10 years to a 2200-mg/day national average "would still have a substantial mortality benefit, roughly half that of the instantaneous 40% reduction," they write. It was predicted to cut heart-disease/stroke mortality by 4% to 10% and total mortality by 1.5% to 3%.

These projections "suggest that the magnitude of health benefit for the US population [would] be substantial and support the continuation of current public-health efforts aimed at achieving reductions in sodium consumption in the United States."

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association. The authors had no disclosures.