Lead author Pamela Coxson, a mathematics specialist in the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues used computer simulations and models to project the effects of reducing salt intake by about 5 percent of a teaspoon of salt per day to lower Americans' average intake of 3,600 milligrams per day to about 2,200 milligrams after 10 years.
The researchers projected up to 500,000 lives could be saved in a decade with the slow reduction and up to 850,000 if salt use were to be trimmed back quicker.
Three research groups contributed to the study, each using a different approach for their simulation. One approach used observational cardiovascular outcome follow-up data, while the other two based their projections on established evidence that salt reduction lowers blood pressure.
These two groups inferred the cardiovascular effects of reducing sodium from data about the relationship of blood pressure to cardiovascular disease, the study said.
"The research groups used the same target populations and baseline death rates for each projection, and our study found that the different sources of evidence for the cardiovascular effects of sodium led to similar projected outcomes," Coxson said in a statement.
The findings were published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.