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S Afr Med J. 2012 Jun 20;102(9):743-5.

Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa.

Author information

  • 1Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. mel.bertram@wits.ac.za



Average salt intake in South African (SA) adults, 8.1 g/day, is higher than the recommended 4 - 6 g/day recommended by the World Health Organization. Much salt consumption arises from non-discretionary intake (the highest proportion from bread, with contributions from margarine, soup mixes and gravies). This contributes to an increasing burden of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD).


To provide SA-specific information on the number of fatal (stroke, ischaemic heart disease and hypertensive heart disease) and non-fatal CVD events that would be prevented each year following a reduction in the sodium content of bread, soup mix, seasoning and margarine.


Based on the potential sodium reduction in selected products, we calculated the expected change in population-level systolic blood pressure (SBP) and mortality due to CVD and stroke.


Proposed reductions would decrease the average salt intake by 0.85 g/person/day. This would result in 7 400 fewer CVD deaths and 4 300 less non-fatal strokes per year compared with 2008. Cost savings of up to R300 million would also occur.


Population-wide strategies have great potential to achieve public health gains as they do not rely on individual behaviour or a well-functioning health system. This is the first study to show the potential effect of a salt reduction policy on health in SA.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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