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Cutting Salt Intake Could Save Billions of Medical-Cost Dollars

Significant reductions in myocardial infarction, stroke, with a small cut in salt content of food

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- Cutting the salt content of food could result in substantial reductions in the incidence of stroke and myocardial infarction, saving billions of dollars on medical costs in the process, according to a study published online March 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

To assess the cost-effectiveness of either a sodium tax or collaboration between the government and the food industry to voluntarily reduce the sodium content of foods, Crystal M. Smith-Spangler, M.D., of Stanford University in California, and colleagues used data from various sources including the 2006 Medical Panel Expenditure Survey and the Framingham Heart Study on American adults aged 40 to 85 years.

The researchers found that if government-industry collaboration reduced sodium intake by 9.5 percent, 513,885 strokes and 480,358 myocardial infarctions would be prevented over the population's lifetime, resulting in an additional 2.1 million quality-adjusted life-years and a reduction of $32.1 billion in medical costs. When the researchers assumed a sodium tax would cut salt intake by 6 percent, they found it would result in an additional 1.3 million quality-adjusted life-years and $22.4 billion in savings.

"Collaboration with industry to establish voluntary sodium targets in processed foods is likely to be more effective than a sodium tax and appears to be an appropriate first step towards reducing population sodium intake and the burden of cardiovascular disease," the authors write.

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