Just a few days ago, the Web was abuzz over a report that found that sugary drinks were linked to hundreds of thousands of U.S deaths each year. But according to another new study, that might be just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of deaths that are caused by another fine white substance: salt.
The new study, conducted by the same Harvard research team that released the sugary drink study, found that excessive salt consumption could be linked to nearly 1 in 10 U.S. deaths or 2.3 million cardiovascular deaths worldwide in 2010.
For this study, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian — an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of both the salt and sugary drink studies — and his team used data from 247 surveys on sodium intake and 107 clinical trials that measured the effects of salt on blood pressure, and the effects of blood pressure on cardiovascular disease that can led to heart attacks and stroke.
Overall, researchers found that adults around the world ate an average of 4,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, which is twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (2,000 mg per day) and nearly three times the limit of 1,500 mg/day set by the American Heart Association.
Researchers found that this overconsumption of salt was not only linked to 1 in 10 U.S. deaths, but that it was also affecting younger and younger Americans.
For instance, would you have guessed that bread and cheese are the top two sources of sodium in the U.S.?
So how can you avoid salt when it is hidden in so many foods? The best thing you can do is to skip processed and packaged food and make more of your meals from scratch. Chips, crackers, and other snack foods are obvious choices to omit, but other processed foods such as soups, boxed meals and canned foods are loaded with salt too. Another trick is to carefully read the labels on foods. Salt will be listed as sodium chloride in the ingredients. And put down the salt shaker at home too. No matter how hard you try to avoid salt, you're likely to get plenty in the foods you buy at the store, so don't add any more by tossing on extra salt at the table.
For more info on the salt study, check out this video from NBC News: