Reducing salt consumption helps to reduce risks of stomach cancer

Reducing salt consumption, along with better labelling of salt levels in foods, could help in minimising the risks of stomach cancer by a tenth.

According to new data gathered together by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), one in seven cases of stomach cancer could be avoided by lessening the amount of salt consumed to current targets of six grams per day.

The cancer charity says a standardised ‘traffic light’ labelling system for food and beverage packaging could help consumers tackle high levels of salt, fat and sugar consumption. The system tags rising levels of fat, salt, sugar and other nutrients with green, amber and red colours.

Kate Mendoza, the head of health information at WCRF, said: “Because around three-quarters of the salt we consume is already in processed food when we buy it, WCRF would like to see traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink packaging to give clear guidance on the levels of salt as well as sugar, fat and saturated fat.

“Standardised labelling among retailers and manufacturers – rather than the different voluntary systems currently in place – would help consumers make better informed and healthy choices”.

The traffic lights system places a strong emphasis on making healthy lifestyle choices – such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables – which could prevent illness and disease occurring, she said.

Sodium is a essential factor for our health and is needed for the human body to function. However, people in the western world consume about 10-12 grams of salt on a daily basis which exceeds the maximum recommended amount of 5 grams per day.

These high intakes of dietary sodium have been connected to negative health effects such as development of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other health problems.

With over two-thirds of salt intake coming from processed foods, many countries have initiated salt reduction programmes.

The benefits of such reduction strategies were given blinding clarity by a meta-analysis which concluded that reducing salt intake around the world by over a tenth could prevent almost nine million deaths between 2006 and 2015.

The topic is, nevertheless, controversial saying that salt reduction did not affect cardiovascular disease risk. However, this was slammed in a re-analysis of the same data stating that salt reduction does provide a significant reduction in cardiovascular events.

The process of reducing salt levels in foods is an ongoing process within the industry, with many now acknowledging that high sodium levels in some foods is a major issue for the industry.

However, the reduction of salt in processed foods is a major challenge because in addition to its role as a flavour enhancer, the food industry has historically added salt to foods to enhance shelf life, modify flavour, improve functionality, and control fermentation.

Experts in the area have previously noted a clear need for the food industry to identify technical routes to enable these functionalities to be modified while reducing the concentration of sodium salts and maintaining the consumer experience.

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