We all know that too much salt is bad for our health! Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which can lead to a variety of different health conditions including stroke and coronary heart disease. These diseases combined, claim the lives of millions of people globally, and costs the NHS, as well as other healthcare systems, billions of pounds per year. The average salt consumption in British adults exceeds the international target of 5g per day* by 70%, and is 2.5g over the UK recommended maximum daily intake of 6g per day**, contributing to increased risk of developing these non-communicable diseases.

A recent study by HealthLumen, commissioned by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), aimed to quantify and understand what benefits might be seen in the future if average salt intake could be reduced.

To do this, we applied our microsimulation modelling capability to quantify the health and economic impact between 2021 to 2035 if the UK could reduce salt consumption to 6g per day, as per current recommendations, by 2024 and to 5g per day by 2030, in line with the target set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The results showed that, compared with doing nothing, making these changes could have major implications for the nation’s health. Cumulatively, by 2035, if these targets were hit, over 1.4 million people, who are currently on-track for a diagnosis of high blood pressure, may not develop this condition. Because high blood pressure leads to an increased risk of other diseases, reaching these salt targets could also prevent 135,000 people from developing chronic heart disease and over 48,000 people from developing stroke, by 2035.


You can explore this data using the interactive graphs below:



These cardio- and cerebrovascular diseases bring with them a high burden for the people who live with them, often leading a lower quality of life. Interventions, such as lowering salt intake, can be measured using quality-adjusted life years, known as QALYs, where one QALY is equal to one year lived in perfect health. If the salt targets could be achieved in the UK, by 2035, over 460,000 QALYs could be gained, compared to what is predicted to happen if nothing is done to lower salt consumption. This benefit would mostly be due to the lower rates of stroke and chronic heart disease, which can be debilitating and have life-long impacts.

High blood pressure, stroke and chronic heart disease are all costly to treat and so, helping people to avoid these diseases from developing, not only helps them on a personal level, but it also helps healthcare budgets too. Cost analysis showed that the impact of avoiding these cases could save the NHS over £6.7 billion in direct costs. If you factor in indirect costs, things like lost work days due to illness or informal care, the costs that can be saved increase to £11.4 billion.


The case for achieving the six grams per day target is clear. But what does that look like for the average person? Six grams of salt is less than you think – only the equivalent of one level teaspoon. Merely sprinkling less salt onto our fish and chips is not going to fix the problem for the British population! Luckily, we know that making changes to our salt consumption, especially through processed foods, can be done. From 2004, a concerted effort was made by the Food Standards Authority (FSA) to reduce the nation’s salt intake. These efforts had excellent results reducing daily salt intake on average from 9.5g in 2004 to 8.1g per day in 2011 which has since stayed at that level.

A similar sized push could see the daily target within striking distance but to achieve this, the British public need help from policy makers at the very highest level. This report, along with the work being done by the British Heart Foundation will help drive forward the necessary changes by showing just how much the British people deserve this: how much they are worth more than their salt.


*The WHO recommend a maximum daily salt intake of 5g.

**The NHS recommended maximum daily intake of salt for an adult, in the UK, is 6g.

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