Monday, March 27, 2006

Salt and Hypertension

Salt was historically very very expensive and the book of Ezra tells us that Artaxerxes of Persia paid his soldiers with salt. In fact the Romans built an empire on the backs of soldiers who received stipends to buy salt. Some of the Roman roads were built to bring salt supplies into Rome.

Fast forward to the present day. Salt is now cheap and, anyone, not just the king has the right to buy and sell the stuff. How many of us would agree to a law to legislate the amount of salt, especially when used in cooking?

The CHINESE SALT SUBSTITUTE STUDY (CSSS), was reported in the American College of Cardiology annual scientific meeting. They studied 608 individuals in northern rural China. 306 individuals received a salt substitute which had 65% NaCl, 25% Potassium Cl and 10% Magnesium Cl. The other 302 received 100% NaCl. They taste almost the same, so said the investigators. No word on how much salt the taste testers had to ingest to reach that conclusion.

Anyhow, after 12 months of follow-up, the group with the salt substitute had lower systolic bllod pressure (by 5.4 mmHg, P<0.001), which was statistically significant. In fact the drop in systolic BP was evident by six months. As a public health measure, think how many lives could be saved if we all eat less salt? There will be less hypertension, so less strokes and heart attacks, less heart failure and renal failure and less deaths. Salt is cheap now but the effects are anything but cheap. The medical community has known this for a long time and the CSSS just gives us more proof.

Bon appetit ladies and gentlemen but hold the salt please.

No comments: