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Are Salty Food Linked to Premature Death?

Are Salty Food Linked to Premature Death?

Adding salt to your food is a natural reflex that we all do from time to time. However, research now shows that adding salt to your food can actually increase the risk of premature death. A study published recently in June 2022 explored the relationship between salt and sodium intake and the incidence of premature death.(1) The study, published in the European Heart Journal, defined premature death as death that occurs before the age of 75 years.

The study followed all the participants over an average period of nine years, and the research team found that the people who were always adding extra salt to their food had a 28 percent higher risk of dying prematurely as compared to those who rarely or never added salt to their food.

At the same time, though, the researchers also discovered that a higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables significantly weakened this association between salt use with food and premature death.

Based on these findings, the research team noted that there was a decreased life expectancy at the age of just 50 years in people who were always adding salt to their food as compared to those participants who rarely or never added any salt. This meant that there was a decrease of 2.3 years in men and 1.5 years in women. The results of the study also accounted for factors that could impact the outcomes, including:

The study was carried out by the Tulane University Obesity Research Center in New Orleans and is apparently one of the first to look at the relationship between adding salt to foods and the risk of premature death. The study authors concluded that their research provided enough evidence to modify eating behaviors in order to improve overall health and increase your lifespan.

How to Assess Your Sodium Intake?

Over the years, many studies have looked at the consequences of having a high dietary intake of salt or sodium chloride. These studies have mostly established that a high intake of salt is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and elevated blood pressure.(2) At the same time, studies have also suggested that there is a linear relationship between salt intake and all-cause mortality.(3)

However, there have been other studies that have shown conflicting data on the link between salt intake and mortality. For example, some of these studies that were carried out in specific age groups showed that both high and low intake of sodium was associated with a greater risk of mortality.(4)

One of the major reasons behind this conflicting data could be the difficulty in accurately determining sodium intake.(5) A common technique for estimating the daily sodium intake is based on sodium excretion over a period of 24 hours with the use of urine samples. However, it has been found that there is a lot of variation in sodium intake from day to day, and this is why such estimates spanning a single 24-hour period are likely to be incorrect.

Many other researchers have used food records or dietary surveys to determine the daily sodium intake. These techniques, though, are very prone to error because of the challenges in accurately measuring the amounts of foods being consumed or the failure of the participants in the study to correctly report the use of table salt or condiments that may contain sodium.

Furthermore, estimating the sodium intake due to the consumption of processed foods with the use of dietary surveys can also be difficult due to the variation in sodium levels in the same food product but from different brands. Prepackaged, processed, and restaurant-prepared foods are said to account for nearly 70 percent of a person’s daily sodium intake.(6) This showcases the importance of correctly assessing the sodium levels found in these foods.

Another disadvantage of using dietary surveys for determining sodium intake is that they often tend to overlook the effects of potassium intake as well. Many foods that are high in sodium are also high in potassium. Higher potassium levels can be good for health, and they can also help lower some of the negative impacts of high sodium intake on your health. Since table salt is primarily made up of sodium chloride (97 to 99 percent), determining the frequency of adding salt to your food can give a measure of sodium intake that is independent of potassium intake.

Due to all these challenges in finding out the exact amount of sodium intake, the current study assessed the link between how frequently the participants added salt to their food and the association with mortality risk.

Looking at Premature Mortality

The researchers of the present study used mortality data from national registers in order to keep track of patient deaths over nine years. As mentioned, they classified premature deaths as being under the age of 75 years.

After controlling factors like gender, diet, age, physical activity, and pre-existing health conditions, the researchers found a higher frequency of adding salt to food and an increased risk of premature death. Compared with people who rarely or never added salt to their food, the ones who always added salt had a reduced life expectancy by 2.3 years in men and 1.5 years in women.

Another observation from the study was that there was a higher frequency of adding salt to a greater risk of premature death due to heart disease and cancer. Among the subtypes of heart disease, those who frequently added salt to their food were at a high risk of premature death due to heart attack or stroke, but not coronary heart disease.

Moreover, it is essential to note that among the participants who had a high intake of fruits and vegetables, the high frequency of adding salt to their food was not related to the higher risk of premature death. These results indicated that consuming foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, could cancel out the effects of adding salt to food and its impact on mortality.

Are There Any Types Of Healthy Salt?

There are many debates raging online nowadays about whether a certain type of salt, such as Pink Himalayan salt, is better than regular salt. Another popular thought some people have is that since Kosher salt has bigger pieces than regular salt, they will be using less of it. However, it is important to know that these are just misconceptions.(7, 8)

The main difference between all these types of salt is whether it is iodized or not. Table salt and sea salt are naturally iodized, but Kosher and Himalayan salt are not iodized. Iodine is needed by the body to ensure the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Since sodium is usually a big part of our general diets, it is likely that we are getting a sufficient amount of iodine.(9)

Conclusion: Tips on How to Reduce Sodium

If you want to get an idea of how much salt you are consuming, you need to look at everything. For this, looking at food labels is important. Purchase foods that have no added sodium. Here are some more tips on how to reduce sodium in your diet:

  • Choose low sodium alternatives to whatever foods you buy.
  • Avoid buying high-sodium condiments such as teriyaki, Worchester sauce, soy sauce, salad dressings, and ketchup.
  • Avoid having ultra-processed foods like boxed rice mixes that come with added seasoning packets.
  • Restrict your consumption of canned soups.
  • Check food labels before buying.

If you want to reduce your salt intake, the best way to do this is to gradually reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. Since you are used to your taste preferences, it will take some time to reduce your salt intake.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, it is recommended that you should keep your dietary sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day.(10)

You should also add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, which will help reduce the overall sodium intake while also giving you much-needed potassium. Over time, your taste buds will adapt, and you will start liking the natural flavor of food instead of adding salt from above.


  1. Ma, H., Xue, Q., Wang, X., Li, X., Franco, O.H., Li, Y., Heianza, Y., Manson, J.E. and Qi, L., 2022. Adding salt to foods and hazard of premature mortality. European heart journal, 43(30), pp.2878-2888.
  2. Jaques, D.A., Wuerzner, G. and Ponte, B., 2021. Sodium intake as a cardiovascular risk factor: a narrative review. Nutrients, 13(9), p.3177.
  3. Cook, N.R., Appel, L.J. and Whelton, P.K., 2016. Sodium intake and all-cause mortality over 20 years in the trials of hypertension prevention. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 68(15), pp.1609-1617.
  4. Kalogeropoulos, A.P., Georgiopoulou, V.V., Murphy, R.A., Newman, A.B., Bauer, D.C., Harris, T.B., Yang, Z., Applegate, W.B. and Kritchevsky, S.B., 2015. Dietary sodium content, mortality, and risk for cardiovascular events in older adults: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. JAMA internal medicine, 175(3), pp.410-419.
  5. Cobb, L.K., Anderson, C.A., Elliott, P., Hu, F.B., Liu, K., Neaton, J.D., Whelton, P.K., Woodward, M. and Appel, L.J., 2014. Methodological issues in cohort studies that relate sodium intake to cardiovascular disease outcomes: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 129(10), pp.1173-1186.
  6. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/salt/role_of_sodium.htm> [Accessed 14 August 2022].
  7. Dorna, M.D.S. and Seki, M.M., 2022. Himalayan Salt and Table Salt Intake among Hypertensive Individuals. Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia, 118, pp.883-884.
  8. Neal, D.R.O., 1991. Kosher Salt. The Southern Review, 27(3), p.645.
  9. World Health Organization, 2014. Guideline: fortification of food-grade salt with iodine for the prevention and control of iodine deficiency disorders.
  10. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf> [Accessed 14 August 2022].
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 16, 2022

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