More than 35,000 deaths could be prevented in the UK if salt intake was halved, according to the results of a new study.
It was carried out by Professor Graham MacGregor, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London Medical School. He is the author of a review of 34 trials, which will be published in the British Medical Journal, urging people and manufacturers to cut the amount of salt they consume on a daily basis.
If the recommended limit of between nine and 12gms per day is halved, then 2.5 million deaths from heart disease and strokes around the world could be prevented. The study showed that if salt is reduced from a diet for four or more weeks then there were significant falls in people's blood pressure if it was previously raised or normal.
"This will… reduce strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure. Furthermore, our analysis shows a dose-response relation — that is, the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the fall in blood pressure," he said.
"All countries should adopt a coherent and workable strategy to reduce salt intake. A reduction in population salt intake will have major beneficial effects on health along with major cost savings in all countries around the world."
The NHS said that people eat 8.1gms of salt on average each day, and it recommends reducing this amount to six gms for adults. For youngsters the amount should be even lower.
The health body advises that as salt is often used as a "hidden ingredient" by manufacturers, it can be difficult to monitor how much is being consumed. However, guidelines on packaging should help, while not adding any extra to meals is also a wise move.
The NHS also said that foods containing large amounts of salt should be cut from a diet or at least reduced, including salami, anchovies, pickles, smoked meat and bacon.