SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
BERTRAM, Y et al. Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.9, pp. 743-745. ISSN 2078-5135.
BACKGROUND: Average salt intake in South African (SA) adults, 8.1 g/day, is higher than the 4 - 6 g/day recommended by the World Health Organization. Much salt consumption arises from non-discretionary intake (the highest proportion from bread, with contributions from margarine, soup mixes and gravies). This contributes to an increasing burden of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD). OBJECTIVES: To provide SA-specific information on the number of fatal CVD events (stroke, ischaemic heart disease and hypertensive heart disease) and non-fatal strokes that would be prevented each year following a reduction in the sodium content of bread, soup mix, seasoning and margarine. METHODS: Based on the potential sodium reduction in selected products, we calculated the expected change in population-level systolic blood pressure (SBP) and mortality due to CVD and stroke. RESULTS: Proposed reductions would decrease the average salt intake by 0.85 g/person/day. This would result in 7 400 fewer CVD deaths and 4 300 less non-fatal strokes per year compared with 2008. Cost savings of up to R300 million would also occur. CONCLUSION: Population-wide strategies have great potential to achieve public health gains as they do not rely on individual behaviour or a well-functioning health system. This is the first study to show the potential effect of a salt reduction policy on health in SA.