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Cutting Salt Could Prevent Almost 500,000 Heart Attacks
Date:3/1/2010

Government-industry collaboration would work better than a "salt tax," study finds

MONDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- A combined government-industry initiative to reduce U.S. sodium consumption by as little as 10 percent would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars, according to new research.

Cutting salt reduces blood pressure, a key factor contributing to heart attacks and stroke.

"Per person on average it is a very small decrease in blood pressure, but over large populations, we saw a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease and in cost savings," said Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler, lead author of a study in the March 2 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

"This new report strongly supports the conclusion that a concerted national effort to reduce sodium in processed foods would save hundreds of thousands of lives at minimal cost," added Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "We should not delay taking on this challenge."

Like several other recent reports and recommendations, the study advocates a population-based strategy to reduce salt intake and, thereby, blood pressure.

Willett was a co-author of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report released a week ago urging public-health initiatives to combat salt consumption.

And the New York City Health Department, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has announced that it is spearheading the National Salt Reduction Initiative, which aims for a 20 percent reduction in salt consumption over five years.

The initiative is targeted primarily at restaurants and food manufacturers, which supply the majority of sodium in American diets.

According to a commentary in the same issue of the journal, co-authored by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too much salt is responsible for 100,000 d
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