Studies show that excessive salt intake is harmful to people’s health, which can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Whether through awareness-raising activities or government intervention, global salt reduction programmes are gaining new momentum.
So is South Africa. Three years ago, China became the first country to implement mandatory salt targets for staple foods such as bread and soup. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation to reduce salt intake by 30% by 2025. South Africa will soon reduce its sodium target further. The approach taken in South Africa is directed at the inadvertent intake of salt-salt has been added to food. Their view is that this would be the most cost-effective way to prevent high blood pressure-high blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
Studies estimate that reducing salt intake each year can prevent approximately 23,000 cardiovascular diseases and 5,600 deaths in South Africa. New law to reduce salt intake could save the US $ 51.25 million in cardiovascular health care costs. It’s too early to tell whether the new law will have the desired effect on health-it will take years to achieve it. But the policy did play a role in reducing the salt content of staple foods such as bread.
As part of a WHO study on global ageing, researchers tested South Africa’s salt intake before the new law came into effect, and this work is now being repeated to determine whether salt intake has decreased. South Africa has also made concerted efforts to raise public awareness of excessive salt intake and cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown that this has significant effects in changing people’s behavior, such as adding salt to food while cooking and eating. But in the medium and long term, will these interventions produce government-predicted health outcomes? Key indicators will be lowering blood pressure and reducing cardiovascular events such as heart disease and stroke. This is partly because the government is adjusting its policies to new scientific discoveries about how salt affects the body. This is a frontier area that scientists around the world are exploring.
Researchers’ research challenges decades of hypotheses about how salt affects the body. Their findings-and those of other international researchers-suggest that the correlation between salt and cardiovascular health may be more complex than originally thought. This in turn shows that there is a lot of room for adjusting policies in improving the prevention and treatment of common diseases such as hypertension. For example, researchers have emphasized that reducing salt intake can significantly reduce the harmful effects of hormones associated with high salt intake. Blood pressure, heart structure and blood vessels are all affected. This further demonstrates the importance of policies that target salt intake.
What do we know now?
Over the years, there has been convincing evidence that high salt intake is closely related to cardiovascular events such as hypertension and heart disease. But emerging research has begun to question the physiological mechanisms of the link between salt intake and elevated blood pressure. For decades, there has been a general consensus in medical textbooks that high salt intake can cause thirst. Therefore, higher water intake leads to increased blood volume, which leads to increased blood pressure, and eventually water and salt are excreted by the kidneys and blood pressure.
But German researcher Jens Titze recently discovered that salt is stored in the skin. Researchers have further shown that high salt intake is accompanied by minimal water loss. These surprising findings have been questioned by the global health science community, but they have also emphasized the need for more in-depth studies of blood pressure mechanisms.
US researchers Alexei Bagrov and Olga Fedorova identified another factor in how salt affects cardiovascular health. Marinobufagenin is a steroid hormone with properties similar to the active substance found in Bufo marinus toad venom. The function of this hormone is to maintain the balance of salt, so the body produces this substance when it ingests a large amount of salt. But as a response to excessive salt intake, high levels of this steroid hormone can cause blood pressure to rise, affect the structure of the heart, and increase the stiffness of the animal’s blood vessel walls.
Researchers recently started their first test on healthy young people, and for the first time they confirmed a strong positive correlation between increased salt intake and increased steroid hormones. Researchers have found that large intakes of salt have been linked to aortic stiffness, even in very young people. The researchers then tested whether this was due to the steroid hormone or the salt itself. When they analyzed the data for these two substances, they found that the culprit was steroid hormones, not necessarily salts. This steroid is not only associated with aortic stiffness, but also with increased blood pressure and increased left ventricular mass.
Healthy young adults consume an average of 11.8 grams of salt (more than two teaspoons) per day. The World Health Organization recommends eating less than 5 grams (one teaspoon) of salt per day. Conclusion The latest research results indicate that South Africa should reduce salt in staple foods to further reduce daily salt intake. This evidence also strongly supports continued public awareness campaigns to reduce excess salt intake and protect cardiovascular health.