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Small change with a big impact
Heart disease is by far the leading cause of death worldwide. One of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular diseases is high blood pressure. In Germany, 20 to 30 million people suffer from it, often without knowing it. Researchers are desperately looking for solutions to contain the massive effects of high blood pressure. A study has now identified a simple method by which everyone can reduce their risk of premature death: all they have to do is reduce salt consumption and avoid trans fats.
A research team from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health looked for easy-to-use measures to reduce the global incidence of heart disease. Two measures turned out to be particularly effective: a 30 percent reduction in sodium intake and the elimination of trans fats. According to the study, this alone could prolong the lives of around 55 million people. The results were recently presented in the "Circulation" journal.
Salt and trans fats are often responsible for high blood pressure
The researchers used global data from several studies and estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and used them to calculate the benefits of reducing salt and trans fats. As a result, an average 30 percent reduction in salt consumption could prevent around 40 million premature deaths. Eliminating harmful trans fats would extend another 14.8 million lives. "These are realistic goals that have proven to be achievable on a smaller scale," says lead study author Professor Goodarz Danaei in a press release on the study results.
Salt increases blood pressure regardless of diet
Saline is vital for humans, but high consumption is harmful to health. The western diet is characterized by excessive salt consumption. Another study by Imperial College London recently showed that salt leads to high blood pressure regardless of the food you eat. Even with an otherwise healthy diet, the negative effect cannot be compensated. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) advises adults not to consume more than six grams of salt a day. For more information, read "Lowering Blood Pressure: How Much Salt You Intake Has a Significant Impact".
Trans fats clog the cardiovascular system
Trans fats are manufactured industrially by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils. This process makes the fats harder and, for example, makes crisps and chips more crispy or baked goods last longer. Various studies have already shown that trans fats increase the risk of heart disease by increasing LDL cholesterol levels and lowering "good" HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, trans fats accumulate faster than fat deposits in the blood vessels and thus promote arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Canada set a good example in 2018 and banned trans fats nationwide. For more information, read the article “Trans fats are so bad for our health”.
Men benefit the most from the reduction
As the researchers found, men in particular should heed this advice. According to the current study, two thirds of the deaths from non-communicable diseases before the age of 70 worldwide are attributable to the male sex.
Tips for reducing salt
As the German High Pressure League reports, a salt restriction is difficult. The information on the food is often difficult to understand. Half a pre-made pizza can already cover around 70 percent of the daily salt requirement. The high pressure league gives the following tips for salt reduction:
- Do not salt or only sparingly when cooking. It is better to use fresh spices.
- Sausage and cheese often contain a lot of salt and should be consumed sparingly.
- Avoid salted foods as much as possible.
- Consume ready meals as rarely as possible.
- Refrain from salting when eating.
Tips for avoiding trans fats
In Germany there is currently no regulation on trans fats. Only information such as "contains hardened" or "partially hardened" fats draw attention to the presence. The harmful trans fats are mainly found in:
- Baked goods such as donuts, croissants, cakes and cookies,
- Fast food like frozen pizza, burgers and french fries,
- Ready meals like instant soups,
- Breadcrumbs on frozen meat or fish,
- Nibbles such as potato chips, popcorn, crackers and granola bars.
Link to the original publication:
Three Public Health Interventions Could Save 94 Million Lives in 25 Years Global Impact Assessment Analysis; Circulation
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek