A Quick (Real) Way of Reducing Billions in U.S. Health Care Costs?

Three words:Consume less salt.

We are consuming too much salt in our diet.

Thanks to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s National Salt reduction Initiative, 16 private companies have now agreed to reduce salt levels in their products. Reuters comments, “U.S. researchers found recently that cutting salt intake by nearly 10 percent could prevent hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes over several decades and save the United States $32 billion in healthcare costs.”

This message isn’t new: The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Stroke Network published a study in May 2007 focussing on salt consumption and hypertension. The study made the following conclusions of what would happen if Canadians cut salt intake in half:

1) 1 million less Canadians would have high blood pressure.

2) The health-care system would save $430 million a year.

3) There would be roughly a 25% per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.

Kevin Willis, acting executive director of the Canadian Stroke Network commented when these results were reported. He says, “A 25 per cent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk is huge. The number of lives saved and cost [savings] to the health-care system would be staggering.” In October 2007 Seventeen Canadian groups and associations pledged that by January 1, 2020, they would to Canadians within the “healthy” salt intake range.

So What happenned?

In May 2010 the Montreal Gazette wrote this: “In Canada … the government is, er, studying the problem. The working group said last November that the industry is “too diverse” to be expected to comply with mandatory rules. Really?”

… BUT …

They also write this, “We can’t help notice that (New York Mayor Michael) Bloomberg is single-handedly accomplishing more on this front than the whole government of Canada.” In the United State a coalition of cities, health advocates, and others are working with Michael Blooberg. The result is this: a total of 16 major companies are reducing salt content by 25 per cent over five years. The companies include Au Bon Pain, Boar’s Head, FreshDirect, Goya, Hain Celestial Group, Heinz, Kraft, LiDestri, Mars Food US, McCain Foods, Red Gold Inc., Starbucks, Subway, Unilever, Uno Chicago Grill and White Rose.

For more information here are two good articles on the subject:

“Sixteen firms join NY mayor’s salt-cutting quest | Reuters” (April 26,2010)

“All that salt in our food leaves a bad taste” (The Gazette, April 30, 2010)

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