Are you the kind of person who immediately reaches for the salt shaker after getting your meal at a restaurant? If so, you might be taking years off your life.
Findings from a recent study suggest that adding extra salt to your food increases your risk of dying prematurely. Luckily for consumers, the research team found that reducing the amount of salt you consume and eating more fruits and vegetables can benefit your health.
"Even a modest reduction in sodium intake, by adding less or no salt to food at the table, is likely to result in substantial health benefits, especially when it is achieved in the general population," said Lu Qi, a professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Salt intake and higher risk of premature death
The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing data on salt use from over 500,000 people. The team adjusted their results for several factors, including age, sex, race, deprivation, body mass index, physical activity, diet, medical conditions, whether participants smoked, and how often they drank alcohol.
The team found that those who always added salt to their food increased their chances of dying prematurely by 28% when compared to people who never or rarely added salt to their food.
The study showed that life expectancies for people who always added salt to their food could be reduced by several years by age 50, with women shortening their lives by 1.5 years and men lowering their life expectancies by 2.28 years when compared to those who rarely or never added salt to their food.
Fruits and vegetables help
While consuming more salt was linked to a higher chance of dying prematurely, the researchers found that incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a person's diet could help reduce some of that risk.
"We were not surprised by this finding as fruits and vegetables are major sources of potassium, which has protective effects and is associated with a lower risk of premature death," said Qi.
Going forward, the researchers plan to continue analyzing the link between salt intake and life expectancy. Their study has been published in the European Heart Journal.