Group: 100,000 lives saved if salt lowered

April 24, 2012 at 6:50 PM

WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- More than 100,000 U.S. lives could be saved annually if salt levels in packaged and restaurant foods were halved, a food advocacy group says.

In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said high levels of sodium consumption promote costly health problems, such as high-blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Direct medical costs would be cut by about $18 billion per year if salt consumption were reduced from 3,400 milligrams per day to 2,300 mg per day; $28 billion could be saved if consumption were further reduced to 1,500 mg per day, Jacobson said.

"There is virtually nothing else the FDA could do to improve America's food supply that would provide a greater benefit to public health than to reduce sodium levels," Jacobson wrote in the letter. "We urge the FDA to issue strong rules that will protect Americans' health."

In April 2010, the Institutes of Medicine recommended gradually lowering sodium limits to healthier levels in the coming years, giving American palates time to adjust.

However, a study published this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that U.S. fast-food companies have plenty of room to bring sodium levels down at least to the levels seen in other countries.

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