LONDON — Sprinkling salt substitutes on meals could add years to your life, according to new research. A global study found opting for a seasoning other than salt lowers the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease or any cause by more than 10 percent.
They also reduce heart attacks and strokes by 11 percent. Consuming too much salt can lead to clotting, cutting off blood supply to major organs. Salt replacements taste just like the real thing and are widely available in supermarkets.
They also contain added potassium and less sodium, protecting against high blood pressure, according to the international team.
“The magnitude of the cardiovascular protection afforded is likely to be determined by the magnitude of the fall in blood pressure,” the study authors write in the journal Heart.
“Blood pressure-mediated beneficial effects of salt substitute on clinical outcomes appear likely to be accrued across a broad range of populations without adverse effects.”
“These findings are unlikely to reflect the play of chance and support the adoption of salt substitutes in clinical practice and public health policy as a strategy to reduce dietary sodium intake, increase dietary potassium intake, lower blood pressure and prevent major cardiovascular events,” the researchers add in a media release.
How helpful are substitutes for blood pressure?
The findings come from the results of 21 clinical trials involving nearly 30,000 people in Europe, the Western Pacific Region, the Americas, and South-East Asia. Salt substitutes lowered blood pressure among all participants.
Overall, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings dropped by 4.61 and 1.61 mm/Hg, respectively. The former reflects the heart’s force when it pumps and the latter when it rests between beats. Major organs are vulnerable to stress if either blood pressure number is too high.
Each 10 percent lower proportion of sodium chloride displayed a connection to a 1.53 and 0.95 mm/Hg greater fall in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively. Nearly half of all U.S. adults have hypertension, according to the CDC.
Estimates show that around a third of all cases are undiagnosed, with health officials calling it the “silent killer” — as there are few symptoms.
“Excess dietary sodium and insufficient dietary potassium are both well-established causes of high blood pressure,” the team writes. “Randomized trials demonstrate that reduced dietary sodium consumption or potassium supplementation lowers blood pressure.”
“Sodium-reduced, potassium-enriched salt substitutes, in which a proportion of the sodium chloride (NaCl) in regular salt is replaced with potassium chloride (KCl), combine these blood pressure-lowering effects.”
What makes a salt substitute healthy?
The reductions in blood pressure among people using salt substitutes were consistent irrespective of geography, age, sex, history of high blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and baseline levels of blood pressure, urinary sodium, and potassium. There was no evidence that higher dietary potassium levels led to any harmful effects on health.
Standard table sea or rock salt is virtually 100-percent sodium chloride. In substitutes like LoSalt, up to two-thirds of the sodium is replaced by potassium. The salty tasting mineral is lacking in many people’s diets.
However, the body needs this mineral for healthy muscles and nerves, and for normal blood pressure. Studies have previously linked the supplements to lower blood pressure. A quarter-teaspoon serving of Lo Salt contains 450mg potassium, 23 percent of an adult’s daily required amount.
Western diets are high in processed food that already contain high levels of salt, a habit which has prompted calls for the food industry to switch to low-sodium salt as well.
“Since blood pressure lowering is the mechanism by which salt substitutes confer their cardiovascular protection, the observed consistent blood pressure reductions make a strong case for generalizability of the cardiovascular protective effect observed in the SSaSS both outside of China and beyond,” researchers conclude.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.
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