High salt intake ups risk of obesity, study finds

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In a first of its kind study, researchers have established a direct link between high salt intake and increased risk of obesity.

Researchers have established through a nationally representative sample of the UK population that with a 1g/day increase in salt intake, the risk of obesity increases by 28 per cent in children and 26 per cent in adults. The increase in obesity risk was independent of total energy intake and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

Data obtained from 458 children and 785 adults taking part in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey’s (NDNS) rolling programme showed that there is a consistently significant association between salt intake and BMI, waist circumference and body fat mass.

Links between increased salt intake and increased blood pressure have been well-established. Recent studies have also indicating a possible association between high salt diet and increased risk of obesity, primarily through its effect on thirst, leading to increased sugar sweetened beverage consumption (SSB), but also potentially as a result of excessive consumption of processed foods that are high in calories and salt. This new study highlights even further, the link between salt and obesity.

Reasons for these new findings are still unclear but it is thought to be related to changes in body fat metabolism. Further research is warranted in this area. A reduction in salt intake could help reduce obesity not only through its effect on reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption but may also have a direct effect on lowering obesity risk.

Current guidelines suggest that 6g of salt per day is enough as per our requirement, but it has been observed through various studies that we are consuming salt more than we require i.e. about 8.1g/day, which has impact in the long run.

Collaborative efforts between the government and food industry however have led to progressive reductions in salt intake, resulting in a reduction in stroke and heart disease events and deaths but further reductions need to be made.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt & Health says: “The food we eat is now the biggest cause of ill health through its high salt, fat and sugar content added by the food industry. High blood pressure and obesity both lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure, which are the commonest causes of death and disability in the UK.”