The popular spice increases the risk of dying young by 28%, scientists warn

WHEN you sit down to dinner, what condiment do you reach for first?

If you’re likely to use salt with meals, you’ll be saddened to hear that your risk of premature death is higher.

Row of jars with spices


Row of jars with spicesPhoto credit: Getty

We already know that too much salt in your diet is bad for you.

The NHS recommends no more than one teaspoon a day, including in ready meals and when cooking.

Salt increases blood pressure, which in turn increases the likelihood of a potentially fatal stroke or heart attack and the risk of cancer.

But a new study is the first to separate the effects of salt added to foods at mealtimes versus total salt intake.

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Researchers from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans studied half a million Britons between the ages of 40 and 69.

When taking part in the study, participants were asked if they add salt to their diet, with the answers being; never/rarely, sometimes, mostly or always.

They were followed up an average of nine years later.

Compared to people who never or rarely added salt, those who always added salt to their diet had a 28 percent increased risk of dying prematurely, defined as before the age of 75.

This corresponds to approximately one additional death in a group of 100 people aged 40 to 69.

Life expectancy was lower for those who always added salt to their diet than for those who never or rarely did.

At age 50, life expectancy was reduced by 1.5 and 2.28 years for women and men, respectively, according to results published in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers led by Professor Lu Qi had considered factors that influence death, such as age, weight, gender, smoking and drinking, and health status.

The risk of early death among those consuming the most salt tended to be slightly lower among those consuming the most fruits and vegetables.

“This finding did not surprise us as fruits and vegetables are important sources of potassium, which has protective effects and is associated with a lower risk of premature death,” said Prof. Qi.

“To my knowledge, our study is the first to examine the link between adding salt to food and premature death,” he said.

“It provides new evidence to support recommendations for changing eating habits to improve health.

“Even a modest reduction in sodium intake by adding less or no salt to table-side meals is likely to result in significant health benefits, particularly when achieved in the general population.”

Foods high in salt are staples in many homes, including cheese, shrimp, ham, gravy granules, smoked fish, soy sauce and more.

Packaged foods like soups, sandwiches, breakfast cereals, and tomato ketchup can be high in salt, so it pays to check labels and compare products. The popular spice increases the risk of dying young by 28%, scientists warn

Sarah Y. Kim

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