Researcher urges food industry to reduce salt in food

The food industry must do more to lower the amount of salt in their products in order to tackle high blood pressure, says an Imperial expert.

Professor Paul Elliott , Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at Imperial College London, talked about his work on how salt contributes to raised blood pressure, and strategies to tackle high salt consumption, at the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) seminar. He was joined by Professor Neil Poulter , Honorary Consultant Physician at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Professor of Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the College, who talked about his work on raising awareness of the impact of raised blood pressure.

High blood pressure - known as hypertension - affects more than one in four adults in the UK, and increases the risk of a number conditions including heart attacks and stroke. It is thought to have a number of causes, including age, being overweight and eating too much salt.

In a packed lecture theatre at St Mary’s Hospital, Professor Elliott explained that the food industry needs to do more to lower the amount of salt in their products in line with current guidelines.

Up to 75 per cent of salt intake is from added salt in processed foods such as bread, cereals and children’s snacks.

A report by Public Health England has found that there’s been slow progress by food manufacturers to meet salt targets set in 2014 with only 37 per cent of manufacturers meeting requirements.

Professor Elliott explained that significant reductions of salt intake can lead to large reductions in blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart diseases and strokes.

Professor Elliott also talked about his work leading the INTERSALT study which measured sodium intake in urine samples of more than 10,000 men and women across 32 countries. It showed that in the vast majority of populations, salt intake is well above recommended levels. He also revealed that just one extra teaspoon of salt in a person’s diet can contribute to raised blood pressure. The findings from the study have influenced guidelines to lower salt consumption in the UK and worldwide.

The seminars are an example of the work carried out by Imperial College AHSC, a joint initiative between Imperial College London and three NHS hospital trusts. It aims to transform healthcare by turning scientific discoveries into medical advances to benefit local, national and global populations in as fast a timeframe as possible. Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.

Martin Sayers (Digital Media Producer)
Communications and Public Affairs