A study published in the print issue of Hypertension ‘High salt intake: independent risk factor for obesity’ has shown high salt intake can potentially increase risk of obesity in both adults and children, according to CASH (the UK’s Consensus Action on Salt and Health pressure group).
Eating too much salt may be a trigger for obesity – no matter how many calories of other foods you consume. Doctors have known for some time that salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure, making it a risk factor for heart disease. But this is the first study of its kind that links salt directly to obesity.
The researchers, led by Professor Graham MacGregor of Queen Mary University of London, said they could not be sure exactly why salt has such a profound impact. But they suspect that it modifies the metabolism, altering the way the body absorbs fat.
Scientists found that every extra gram of salt that a person eats each day, increases their risk of obesity by 25 per cent (both children and adults). Even when they took into account the total amount of food individuals ate, salt still seemed to be a major factor in a person’s weight.
Data obtained from a total of 458 children and 785 adults taking part in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey’s (NDNS) rolling program was used to assess energy intake and salt consumption [REF 1]. Results showed a consistent significant association between salt intake and BMI, waist circumference and body fat mass – independent of total energy intake and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.
“The food we eat is now the biggest cause of ill health through its high salt, fat and sugar content added by the food industry,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt & Health. “High blood pressure and obesity both lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure, which are the commonest causes of death and disability in the UK.
Current guidelines suggest we should be eating no more than 6g salt a day but the latest statistics show we are eating far more than we require (8.1g/day) says CASH. Collaborative efforts between the government and food industry however have led to progressive reductions in salt intake, resulting in a reduction in stroke and heart disease events and deaths but further reductions need to be made, CASH believes.
Most of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy, which is why checking nutritional information on packs to make sure we are making the healthiest choice is important to help limit the amount of salt we are eating.
The original paper can be accessed here.
*REF-1- Data was used from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) rolling program years 1-4 (2008/9-2011/12). The NDNS programme was a rolling cross-sectional study aiming to assess nutritional status of the general UK population. In total, 1982 children and 2174 adults participated in the NDNS core survey. Among them, 458 children (aged ≥4 years) and 785 adults had valid weight and height measurement as well as complete 24-hour urine collection, and were therefore included in our analysis.