Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide, kills 17 million people each year (representing 30% of all global deaths). The major CVD risk factor is high blood pressure, of which excessive sodium intake is an important cause. Specifically, sodium consumption of more than 2 g/day is estimated to cause 1.65 million cardiovascular-related deaths annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended salt reduction as a ‘best buy’, recognising it as one of the most cost-effective and feasible approaches to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Against this backdrop, the WHO Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction has just published a new study that looks at national health policies toward salt reduction around the world. The team, led by the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, Australia, included researchers from World Cancer Research Fund, UK; the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the University of Calgary, Canada; the Cumming School of Medicine of the University of Calgary, Canada; International SOS Freeport Public Health and Malaria Control, Indonesia; and the Unit of Noncommunicable Diseases and Disability, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at the Pan American Health Organization-WHO, USA.
The authors found an encouraging trend in the growing number of countries with salt reduction strategies in place, though much work remains to be done in low- and middle-income regions. Within the Asia Pacific Region, the following 26 countries were reported to have some sort of initiative in place, with consumer education being the most common type:
- Confederation of Northern Mariana Islands
- Cook Islands
- French Polynesia
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Solomon Islands
- Sri Lanka
The findings suggest that sodium intake in all countries where data is available within the Asia Pacific Region currently exceed the WHO recommendation of 2 g/day. However, studies that estimate sodium intake using the ‘gold standard’ 24-hour urinary sodium excretion method are still needed in many countries.
The work was led by Jacqui Webster, Centre Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Population Salt Reduction, who said, “Overall there has been good progress in the Asia Pacific Region but some major centres of population such as India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and the Philippines, where salt intakes are likely to be high, would benefit from programs.”
Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, Executive Director of the NCD Asia Pacific Alliance and co-author on the study, commented, “At the moment we are developing several exciting public-private partnerships targeting sodium reduction strategies within the Asia Pacific region.”
“Private-sector companies are realizing that cardiovascular disease is contributing to massive productivity and medical expense losses in Asian countries,” he remarked. “They are therefore looking for cost-effective solutions to mitigate financial risk associated with rising healthcare costs.”
For more information on salt reduction click here.
For more on the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Population Salt Reduction (WHO CC SALT) click here.
The published review can be found here: