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Salt Swaps Saved Lives in Major New Study
Lower Sodium Salts Help People Live Longer

How much salt do you eat every day?
How much salt do you eat every day?

We’ve known for decades that too much salt in our diet is dangerous.

In 1988 the Intersalt study tested and followed over ten thousand people to see how much salt they ate daily. In the places where diets were low in sodium (no more than 1,500 mg. of sodium a day), not a single case of high blood pressure was found. Even more impressive, older subjects had virtually the same blood pressure as participants in their teens.

Think about that. There wasn’t a single case of high blood pressure in the four locations where people didn’t take in more than 1,500 mg. of sodium a day. That study concluded that cutting salt intake by 15% could prevent 1 million deaths a year.

Now there’s a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that proves cutting salt saves lives. What’s even more important, researchers did it successfully with thousands of people.

Researchers enrolled 20,995 people in China to see what would happen if half of them were switched to a salt substitute. Everyone in the study was at higher risk of early mortality from cardiovascular issues. 72.6% of the participants had a history of stroke, and 88.4% had a history of hypertension. The average age was just over 65.

Half the people continued using salt normally. The other half were given a salt substitute. “Regular” salt is 100% sodium chloride; occasionally, there may be some trace minerals if you buy designer salts. The salt “substitute” used in the study was 75% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride by mass.

Then researchers tracked the health of the subjects for nearly five years.

At the end of the study, the salt substitute users reduced their risk of a stroke by 14%, and they reduced their risk of total cardiovascular events (strokes and heart attacks combined) by 13%. Premature death was 12% lower for the salt substitute group.

That difference is huge. It means that if salt substitutes were used throughout China, it would prevent 400,000 premature deaths a year. If salt substitutes became standard around the world, several million lives would be saved.

There are two other important things many people have overlooked in the salt substitute study. The first is the rather remarkable fact that 10,000 people switched from 100% salt; to a substitute with 25% less sodium, and they kept using it.

Instead of quickly rejecting the change and going back to regular salt, the subjects remained consistent for almost five years. The change went on long enough and was done by enough people that it significantly improved life expectancy. Most people TRY to do what’s right, but this change was easy enough that thousands could KEEP doing what was healthier.

The second overlooked fact is that the salt substitute was made up of 25% potassium chloride. To keep our bodies working properly, we should take in more POTASSIUM than sodium. In America, people are taking in more SODIUM than potassium. That imbalance can increase the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke. Kidney function can be impaired, bone mineral density can diminish, and bone health can be affected.

Replacing regular table salt with a salt substitute that has potassium can help correct the imbalance.

Some salt substitutes you might consider including Nu-Salt, Morton Salt Substitute, Morton Lite Salt, Accent, Lo Salt and No Salt.
Some salt substitutes you might consider including Nu-Salt, Morton Salt Substitute, Morton Lite Salt, Accent, Lo Salt and No Salt.

One other thing about this study is that they used people from rural China who eat very little pre-packaged or processed foods. Changing out their primary salt source made a big difference. If you eat mostly packaged and processed foods, changing the salt you use in your home wouldn’t make as big a difference.

One way to buy products with less salt is to ignore the front of the package. Products can advertise themselves as “salt-free” but include baking powder, baking soda, brine, disodium phosphate, and sodium glutamate. All these ingredients contain sodium. Check out the nutrition label for the actual levels of sodium in each serving.

Some people should avoid extra potassium. If you have kidney disease, you might not be able to flush out any extra. Salt substitutes that contain potassium can also be a problem for people with diabetes. It’s essential to check with your doctor before switching.

There are several salt substitutes to consider, be prepared to try a few before you find one you like. Look for products that have no more than 75% sodium chloride and include potassium chloride. Some of the ones our tasting panel preferred were Morton Lite Salt, Salt for Life or LoSalt.

Reference Link:

Effect of Salt Substitution on Cardiovascular Events and Death

SBruce Neal, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D., Yangfeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D., Xiangxian Feng, Ph.D., Ruijuan Zhang, M.Sc., Yuhong Zhang, M.Med., Jingpu Shi, Ph.D., Jianxin Zhang, Ph.D., Maoyi Tian, Ph.D., Liping Huang, Ph.D., Zhifang Li, M.Sc., Yan Yu, Ph.D., Yi Zhao, Ph.D., Bo Zhou, Ph.D., Jixin Sun, M.Sc., Yishu Liu, M.Sc., Xuejun Yin, M.P.H., Zhixin Hao, M.D., Jie Yu, M.D., Ph.D., Ka-Chun Li, M.Sc., Xinyi Zhang, M.P.H., Peifen Duan, M.Sc., Faxuan Wang, Ph.D., Bing Ma, M.Sc., Weiwei Shi, Ph.D., Gian Luca Di Tanna, Ph.D., Sandrine Stepien, M.Sc., Sana Shan, M.Sc., Sallie-Anne Pearson, Ph.D., Nicole Li, M.D., Ph.D., Lijing L. Yan, Ph.D., Darwin Labarthe, Ph.D., and Paul Elliott, M.B., B.S., Ph.D.

The New England Journal of Medicine - September 16, 2021

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