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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Excess salt 'claiming hundreds'
Processed foods often have high salt content
Hundreds of deaths could be prevented in Northern Ireland if people halved their salt intake, a charity has said.

Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke said deaths from stroke could be reduced by a quarter and coronary heart disease by almost a fifth.

This could be achieved by people cutting the amount of salt in their diets to less than five grams a day - about the amount of a teaspoon.

The charity said salt contributed to raised blood pressure.

This is a risk factor for both stroke and heart attack.

It said it was issuing the advice as medical experts launched a global campaign to persuade people worldwide to cut their consumption.

Worldwide, it is thought two and a half million deaths could be prevented each year if people halved their salt intake.

Dietary surveys

The charity said most people in Northern Ireland exceeded the recommended World Health Organisation's daily maximum of 5g.

Men average more than twice that number, at 11g per day, while women consume about 8g.

However, much salt is hidden in processed foods, said the NICHS.

Chief Executive Andrew Dougal said: "In fact, the figures may be even higher. Most estimates are gleaned from dietary surveys, but the information is unreliable.

"We look forward to seeing the results of a research project led by Prof Barbara Livingstone at the University of Ulster, which is assessing salt intake in a much more accurate way."

He said things were confused further because many food labels did not list salt as an ingredient.

"They list sodium, which must be multiplied by two and a half to get the salt content."


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