Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Feb 1 2010, 04:40am hrs
Scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine conclude that lowering the amount of salt people eat by even a small amount could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks as much as reduction in smoking, obesity and cholesterol levels. If everyone consumed half a teaspoon less salt per day, there would be between 54,000 and 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year and between 44,000 and 92,000 fewer deaths in the US, according to the study, which was conducted by scientists at University of California, Stanford University Medical Centre and Columbia University Medical Centre.

The study analysed previous studies to estimate the benefits of salt reduction on lowering blood pressure and its effect on decreasing heart disease, stroke and heart attacks.

The researchers found that everyone would benefit from less salt, but people at higher risk for heart problemspeople with hypertension and people over 65would benefit most.

Not every expert was persuaded. Michael Alderman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the research was based on the assumption that there would be no other effects of reduced sodium, but thats not so. He said salt reduction could lead to insulin resistance and imbalances of hormones.