A combined approach of reducing salt content by just 10% in processed foods and taxing foods with high salt content could reduce cardiovascular deaths in developing countries by as much as 3%, a new modeling study suggests. This two-pronged approach would also be cheap, Dr Thomas Gaziano (Harvard School of Medicine, Boston, MA) who presented the data at the World Congress of Cardiology 2012.
Hypertension is the number-one risk factor for death worldwide, accounting for 12.8% of deaths every year. It also accounts for 10% of all healthcare spending worldwide—$450 billion per year in the US alone.
Gaziano and colleagues modeled the impact of applying the approach to sodium reduction used in the UK to 19 developing countries, making up half the world’s population. That approach includes voluntary collaboration on the part of food manufacturers to reduce sodium content by 10% and adding a 40% tax to salty foods—similar to the taxes applied to tobacco in many countries.
According to Gaziano, both strategies proved cost saving in all countries and would lead to a drop of roughly 3% in the rate of cardiovascular deaths. Stroke rates would drop even more sharply by as much as 5%.
Collaboration with industry to reduce sodium content in foods was the more effective strategy of the two and produced the most cost savings, he noted. Both, however, were cheap—in the range of $43 to $49 per capita over the lifetime of the individual.
Sounds great! I hope governments are listening!