Professors, Dr. Heikki Karppanen of the University of Helsinki reports that an average 30-35 % reduction in salt intake during 30 years in Finland was associated with a dramatic 75 % to 80 % decrease in both stroke and coronary heart disease mortality in the population under 65 years. During the same period the life expectancy of both male and female Finns increased by 6 to 7 years.
The most powerful explaining factor for the favourable changes was the more than 10 mmHg (“point”) decrease in the average blood pressure of the population. A marked decrease in the average cholesterol levels of the population also remarkably contributed to the decrease of heart diseases. The extensive use of drugs contributed less than 10 % of the observed decreases in blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study is the close link between salt intake and obesity. The study reports that increasing intakes of sodium (salt) obligatorily produce a progressive increase in thirst. The progressive increase in the average intake of salt explains the observed concomitant increase in the intake of beverages which, in turn, has caused a marked net increase in the intake of calories in the United States.
Between 1977 and 2001, energy intake from sweetened beverages increased on the average by 135 % in the United States. In a decade from 1976-1980 to 1988-1994 the prevalence of obesity increased 61 % among men and 52 % among women. During 1999 to 2002, the prevalence of obesity was 120 % higher among men and 99 % higher among women as compared with the 1976 to 1980 figures. The increased intake of salt, through induction of thirst with increased intake of high-energy beverages has obviously remarkably contributed to the increase of obesity in the United States.
Professor Karppanen states that “the repeated warnings of various industries on possible harmful effects of comprehensive salt reduction are unjustified and even unethical”.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Helsinki