Findings emerging from the University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine showed that people who put extra salt to their food turned out to have a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely.
“For men aged 50, who added salt to the foods, about 2.28 years were slashed off of their life. For women, it was 1.5 years,” the report said.
The July 11 published research in the European Heart Journal analysed data from 501,379 participants in the UK Biobank project, who had entered the study between 2006 and 2010 and were observed for about nine years.
Other selected risk factors included sex, ethnicity, age, deprivation, body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, diet and medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The research findings are a shock for many who love seasoning their foods with some extra salt.
Approximately 18,500 premature deaths i.e. death before age 75, were recorded after the data was collected between 2006 and 2010.
But apart from that, study researchers also found that the risks were slightly reduced in people who ate more fruits and vegetables, even though these results were not statistically significant.
“We were not surprised by this finding as fruits and vegetables are major sources of potassium, which has protective effects and is associated with a lower risk of premature death,” Study leader Professor Lu Qi said.
The study participants were asked via a touch-screen questionnaire whether they added salt to their foods and if they did, how often they do so. The options included: i) I never/rarely, ii) occasionally, iii) generally, iv) always, or v) prefer not to answer.
The study did not include people who responded ‘prefer not to answer.’
Compared to people who never or rarely added salt, those who frequently added salt were at a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely.
Study leader Professor Lu Qi, of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, USA, said, “To my knowledge, our study is the first to assess the relation between adding salt to foods and premature death.”
“It provides novel evidence to support recommendations to modify eating behaviours for improving health. Even a modest reduction in sodium intake, by adding less or no salt to food at the table, is likely to result in substantial health benefits, especially when it is achieved in the general population,” he adds.
Furthermore, the study author also explains how adding salt to foods at the table is a common eating behaviour that indicates an individual’s long-term preference for salty-tasting foods.