Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa

S Afr Med J. 2012 Jun 20;102(9):743-5. doi: 10.7196/samj.5832.


Background: Average salt intake in South African (SA) adults, 8.1 g/day, is higher than the recommended 4 - 6 g/day recommended by the World Health Organization. Much salt consumption arises from non-discretionary intake (the highest proportion from bread, with contributions from margarine, soup mixes and gravies). This contributes to an increasing burden of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Objectives: To provide SA-specific information on the number of fatal (stroke, ischaemic heart disease and hypertensive heart disease) and non-fatal CVD events that would be prevented each year following a reduction in the sodium content of bread, soup mix, seasoning and margarine.

Methods: Based on the potential sodium reduction in selected products, we calculated the expected change in population-level systolic blood pressure (SBP) and mortality due to CVD and stroke.

Results: Proposed reductions would decrease the average salt intake by 0.85 g/person/day. This would result in 7 400 fewer CVD deaths and 4 300 less non-fatal strokes per year compared with 2008. Cost savings of up to R300 million would also occur.

Conclusions: Population-wide strategies have great potential to achieve public health gains as they do not rely on individual behaviour or a well-functioning health system. This is the first study to show the potential effect of a salt reduction policy on health in SA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sodium, Dietary*
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Sodium, Dietary