an initiative of Vital Strategies

Salt reduction can save many lives at low cost

Eating too much salt raises blood pressure and causes more than 3 million deaths each year. Reducing salt consumption is possible and can be done cheaply: about $0.40 per person.

The United Kingdom shows that change is possible, and faster than you might think. Salt was reduced quickly, blood pressures dropped, and deaths from cardiovascular disease reduced significantly.
Data source: He FJ, Pombo-Rodrigues S, MacGregor GA Salt reduction in England from 2003 to 2011: its relationship to blood pressure, stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality BMJ Open 2014;4:e004549. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004549

Excess salt increases blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Globally, excess salt consumption (>5 grams per day) is responsible for 3 million deaths from heart disease, stroke, and related causes each year. Four out of five of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and nearly half are among people younger than 70.

Average salt intake is nearly twice the recommended level globally. In 181 of 187 countries, covering 99% of the world’s population, estimated average levels of salt intake exceed the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 5 grams per day, or just under one teaspoon per day.

Our approach

Resolve to Save Lives’ approach to salt reduction aims to reduce the global intake of salt by 30% and is based on the World Health Organization’s SHAKE Technical Package.

We have identified a core set of salt reduction strategies, and work with countries to implement a strategy according to their key sources of salt, complementary efforts and political will.

Salt reduction strategy Public health impact Speed to implement
Public education
Limited
Fast
Front-of-pack labeling
Moderate
Slow
Promotion of salt substitutes
Moderate/large
Medium
Food procurement policies
Moderate
Medium
Industry reformulation of packaged food
Moderate/large
Medium/slow
Interventions for restaurants
Not yet proven
Unknown

What we're doing

Our Cardiovascular Health team works with local, national, and global partners to track salt consumption rigorously and help scale up proven strategies to reduce salt consumption. We are currently working in China, Ethiopia, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines on salt reduction interventions.

Resources

Reducing Cardiovascular Disease Through Salt Reduction: Strategies for Success Salt Reduction Factsheet: One Pager Factsheet: Excess Sodium Kills At Least Four Hundred Thousand People in China Every Year Resolve to Save Lives' Salt Reduction Approach Front-of-pack labels for packaged food Industry salt reduction targets Institutional nutrition standards Promotion of low-sodium salt Reduce salt in foods prepared outside the home Behavior change communication to reduce salt use Reduce salt in foods prepared outside the home The SHAKE Technical Package for Salt Reduction