Many of us have a habit of adding extra salt to our meals when we sit down to eat. This love for seasoning has been linked to early death.
New research has found that those who always add salt to their food have a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely in comparison to those who never or rare season their food with salt.
The study, which involved more than 500,000 Brits, calculated that one extra person in every 100 who add salt to their food may die young.
Here’s what you need to know about adding too much salt to your food.
Typically, about three in every 100 people aged 40 to 69 die prematurely in the general population. However, according to the study, people who prefer adding extra salt to their food knocked more years off their lives.
The study published in the European Heart Journal, revealed that at age 50, 1.5 years and 2.28 years were knocked off the life expectancy of women and men who added salt to their food.
People who joined the study between 2006 and 2010 were asked to indicate how often they added salt to their foods, the options being never/rarely, sometimes, usually or always.
Factors like age, sex, race, deprivation, body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, diet and medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease were also taken into account.
During a nine-year follow-up, around 18,474 premature deaths – under the age of 75 – were recorded.
Why is too much salt bad for you?
According to Chloe MacArthur, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, eating too much salt leads to high blood pressure, which can then lead to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Professor Lu Qi of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans said: “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 added: “In the Western diet, adding salt at the table accounts for 6%-20% of total salt intake and provides a unique way to evaluate the association between habitual sodium intake and the risk of death.”
However, high levels of salt may also be present in food – like processed foods – even without us adding extra to it.
How to reduce risk of early death due to extra salt
The researchers have found that risk of early death linked to extra salt were reduced slightly among people who ate more fruits and vegetables.
Prof Qi said: “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.”
However, he added that further studies are needed on this as this study “is the first to report a relation between adding salt to foods and mortality”.