Cutting Down on Salt Could Save 2.5 Million Lives Per Year, Says WHO

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Global, 15th May 2024: The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised an alarm over the excessive consumption of salt worldwide, linking it directly to elevated blood pressure and a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the WHO, more than one teaspoon of salt per day can significantly increase blood pressure, a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases. The organization stresses that reducing salt intake could prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths annually.


Alarming Sodium Consumption Rates

The average global sodium intake among adults is a staggering 4310 mg per day, which equates to about 10.78 grams of salt. This is more than double the WHO’s recommended daily limit of less than 2000 mg of sodium (approximately 5 grams of salt). High sodium diets are linked to various health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, Meniere’s disease, and kidney disease. Annually, around 1.89 million deaths are attributed to excessive sodium intake.


Cost-Effective Health Measures

Reducing sodium intake is identified as one of the most cost-effective strategies for enhancing public health and mitigating non-communicable diseases. For every dollar invested in sodium reduction measures, there is an estimated return of at least twelve dollars in health benefits.


WHO’s Sodium Reduction Recommendations

The WHO advises adults to consume less than 2000 mg of sodium daily, equivalent to under 5 grams of salt. For children aged 2-15, the recommended sodium intake should be proportionally lower based on their energy needs. It is also recommended that all consumed salt be iodized to support healthy brain development and cognitive functions.


Practical Steps to Lower Sodium Intake

The WHO provides several actionable steps to reduce sodium intake:


Consume mostly fresh, minimally processed foods.

Opt for low-sodium products, containing less than 120 mg of sodium per 100 grams.

Cook with minimal or no added salt.

Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt.

Limit the use of commercial sauces, dressings, and instant products.

Reduce the consumption of processed foods.

Remove the salt shaker from the dining table.

Global Efforts and Policies

Since adopting the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health in 2004, the WHO has been actively working with governments, international partners, the private sector, and civil society to promote healthier diets and lifestyles. In 2010, guidelines were established to regulate the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, and in 2011, global leaders committed to combating unhealthy diets through the UN’s Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.


Further commitments were made in 2012 and 2013, with targets set to reduce stunting, wasting, and overweight in children, improve breastfeeding rates, and reduce anemia and low birth weight. The 2013 Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases outlined a comprehensive strategy to achieve a 30% reduction in salt intake by 2025.


Monitoring Progress

The WHO published its first Global Report on Sodium Intake Reduction in 2023, aiming to monitor global progress and pinpoint areas requiring action. This report serves as a crucial tool for member states and WHO regions to implement effective sodium reduction policies.