Too much salt led to nearly 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide

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The global taste for salt — seventy-five percent of the world’s population consumes nearly double the daily recommended amount of sodium — may have been responsible for 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010, according to Harvard School of Public Health researchers. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, held March 19-22, 2013 in New Orleans.

Excess sodium consumption is known to increase blood pressure, which contributes to cardiovascular disease—the world’s number one cause of death, according to the AHA. Globally sodium intake from commercially prepared food, table salt, soy sauce, and salt added during food preparation averaged nearly 4,000 mg a day in 2010. The World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg a day of sodium; the AHA recommends less than 1,500 mg a day.

To estimate global sodium intake, researchers analyzed survey data gathered between 1990 and 2010 as part of the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study, which is an international collaborative study by 488 scientists from 303 institutions in 50 countries around the world.

Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor of epidemiology, led the study linking heart-related deaths to sodium consumption. Saman Fahimi, visiting scientist in HSPH’s epidemiology department, led the study on sodium consumption levels.