Study moots salt tax to lower risk of stroke


There could soon be a cap on how much salt is put in your fries. Raising taxes on products containing salt would reduce the incidence of stroke by 4% and heart attack by about 2% in India.

    A study, presented at the World Congress on Cardiology in Dubai on Saturday by researchers from Harvard Medical School, says voluntary industry reductions in salt content and taxation on products containing salt in 19 developing countries, including India, could reduce the number of deaths each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 3% in these nations. Salt is known to cause high blood pressure or hypertension that is responsible for 57% of deaths due to stroke and 24% of mortality caused by heart attack in India.

    Sodium makes blood vessels less able to expand and contract and may toughen heart cells. The World Health Organization (WHO) says an adult should not consume more than 5gm of salt a day. However, an Indian, on an average, consumes doubles the prescribed intake — 10gm of salt a day.

    Experts say just by reducing salt consumption, India can reduce incidents of stroke by 25% and heart attacks by 10%. Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the World Heart Federation, said, “People will have to be educated on reducing salt use while cooking, besides giving up the habit of adding table salt in their food. We will also have to ensure that processed foods don’t contain high salt levels.”

    The Harvard study found that a salt tax would save money by reducing the number of people needing treatment for hypertension and CVD events such as heart attacks and stroke.