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Lower sodium diet could save billions

2009-09-12 11:50

Results of a new analysis show that lowering sodium in the American diet could save 18 billion dollars annually in health care costs. The study from the RAND Corporation revealed that 11 million cases of high blood pressure could be eliminated each year by just following recommended national guidelines for dietary sodium intake.

Kartika Palar, the study's lead author says, "This study provides an important first step toward quantifying the benefits of reducing the intake of sodium by the American public. These findings make a strong case that there's value in pursuing a population-based approach to reducing sodium intake among Americans."

The study comes at a crucial time, as our President is focused on ways to reduce health care costs in America. The findings, published in the Journal of Health Promotion, also equate to 32 billion dollars added to quality of life if Americans would consume less salt.

The study combined physical exams, use of anti hypertensive medications and interviews with Americans from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to also find that reducing salt intake to the recommended target of no more than 2,300 milligrams daily would add years to the lives of Americans.

"Our results are driven by the fact that nearly 30 percent of the nation's population has hypertension," One of the reasons that hypertension is so pervasive is that sodium consumption is so high”, says Palar.

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Conservative estimates from the RAND study show that half of the 18 billion dollars spent annually for health care would be accrued in health dollars associated with the public sector.

The researchers say it will take focus to help Americans reduce their salt intake. The end result, according to the analysis, is quality of life, billions in health care savings, and health dollars returned to the public sector.

Suggestions to lower sodium in the diets of Americans include more emphasis on salt content on food labels, and urging food manufacturers to put less salt in processed, pre- packaged foods.

Too much sodium in the diet leads to hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease, leading to widespread health problems that persist and worsen, especially among older adults, African Americans and those already suffering from high blood pressure. The study is the first to show that lowering salt in the American diet could save billions of dollars in health care spending.

RAND Corporation

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