Study highlights benefits of FDA’s salt reduction strategy

Researchers at the University of Liverpool, Imperial College London, Tufts University and collaborators as part of the Food-PRICE project have highlighted the potential health and economic impact of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed voluntary salt policy.

The findings are published in PLOS Medicine.

Excess salt consumption is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Globally, more than 1.5 million cardiovascular disease related deaths every year can be attributed to excess dietary salt intake. Health policies worldwide, therefore, are being proposed to reduce dietary salt intake. The FDA has proposed voluntary sodium reduction goals targeting processed and commercially prepared foods. The University of Liverpool reports the researchers aimed to quantify the potential health and economic impact if this policy was successfully implemented.

The researchers modelled and compared the potential health and economic effects of three differing levels of implementing the FDA’s proposed policy over a twenty year period. They found that the optimal scenario, 100% compliance with the ten year FDA targets, could prevent about four hundred and fifty thousand cardiovascular disease cases, gain two million quality adjusted life years (QALYs) and produce discounted cost savings of about $40bn over a twenty year period (2017-2036).

In contrast, the modest scenario, 50% compliance of the ten year FDA targets, and the pessimistic scenario, 100% compliance of the two year targets but no further progress, could result in health and economic gains approximately half as great, and a quarter as great, respectively.

All three scenarios were likely to be cost effective by 2021 and cost saving by 2031.

Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, at the University of Liverpool and Imperial College London, said “Our study suggests that full industry compliance with the FDA voluntary sodium reformulation targets, would result in very substantial decreases in CVD incidence and mortality whilst also offering impressive cost savings to the health payers and the wider economy.”

Senior author Professor Martin O’Flaherty, at the University of Liverpool, said “There is no doubt that these findings have important implications for the processed and commercially prepared food industry in the US.”

Senior author Renata Micha, Research Associate Professor at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said “Population-wide salt reduction strategies with high industry compliance should be prioritized to save lives and reduce healthcare costs. Industry engagement is crucial in implementing dietary policy solutions to improve population health, particularly for developing and marketing healthier foods.”

Other research collaborators in the project were the Department of Preventive Medicine and Education at the Medical University of Gdansk, and the American Heart Association.

This work was supported by awards from the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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