Are you an otherwise healthy-eating American who consumes an average amount of salt? Then you're getting way too much. Results from two studies released Thursday suggest millions of deaths worldwide each year are associated, at least in part, with eating too much salt. And Americans are squarely in the "too much" category.
According to the first study, presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, 75 percent of people worldwide eat nearly twice the daily recommended amount of sodium. Those surveyed ate about 4,000 milligrams per day in 2010. By comparison, the World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 milligrams, while the American Heart Association suggests less than 1,500 milligrams.
The results were part of the Global Burden of Diseases Study, and reflected the salt consumption of participants from 187 countries. Residents from 181 of these countries had higher daily sodium intake than recommended by the WHO, while 119 had much higher sodium levels—more than 1,000 milligrams higher than suggested levels.
The results varied widely by country. For instance, residents in Kenya and Malawi ate about 2,000 milligrams of salt per day, while people in the United States ate about 3,600 milligrams. The highest levels were in Kazakhstan, where locals ate about 6,000 milligrams per day.
"This study is the first time that information about sodium intake by country, age and gender is available," study researcher Dr. Saman Fahimi, M.D., M.Phil., a visiting scientist in the epidemiology department at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement. "We hope our findings will influence national governments to develop public health interventions to lower sodium."’
The second study presented at the AHA showed that the overconsumption of salt was associated with 2.3 million deaths from heart-related causes in 2010. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital used 247 surveys on salt intake and meta-analysis of 107 previous trials about the effect of salt on blood pressure and heart attack to glean the numbers.
Some countries had more deaths associated with sodium consumption, including Russia and Egypt. Countries with the fewest deaths included Qatar, Kenya and the United Arab Emirates. In the United States, 429 deaths-per-million were associated with eating too much salt.
According to study researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., national and global public health measures aimed to reduce sodium intake could potentially save millions of lives.