Researchers have found a substitute to table salt, which they say could save millions from dying of heart diseases and other conditions linked to the consumption of sodium laced salt.

Several studies have established that eating too much salt can cause to high blood pressure, which is directly linked to conditions like heart failure and heart attack, kidney problems, fluid retention, stroke and osteoporosis.  It has also been found to also cause calcium losses, which may be pulled from bone in some cases.

Many have been left with little or no option for salt, the most used seasoning in cooking and preservation. However, results from one of the largest dietary intervention studies ever conducted have found that replacing table salt with a reduced-sodium, added-potassium ‘salt substitute’ significantly reduces rates of stroke, heart attack and death.

The results which were presented during at the European Society of Cardiology Congress held in Paris on August 29, and simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed that salt substitute did not have harmful effects.

According to the researchers led by Professor Bruce Neal of The George Institute for Global Health, using a salt substitute which has the sodium chloride replaced with potassium chloride could address the widespread twin problems of high levels of sodium intake and low levels of potassium intake that have been linked to high blood pressure and greater risks of stroke, heart disease and premature death.

Although salt substitutes are known to lower blood pressure, their effects on heart disease, stroke, and death were unclear, until the recent research.

According to Professor Neal , the lead investigator, that the scale of the benefit seen in the study could prevent millions of early deaths if salt substitutes were widely adopted.

“Almost everyone in the world eats more salt than they should. Switching to a salt substitute is something that everyone could do if salt substitutes were on the supermarket shelves,” he said in an August 30 report in Medical Express.

In addition to showing clear benefits for important health outcomes, Professor Neal said the study also allays concerns about possible risks.

“We saw no indication of any harm from the added potassium in the salt substitute. Certainly, patients with serious kidney disease should not use salt substitutes, but they need to keep away from regular salt as well,” he added.

The Salt Substitute and Stroke Study enrolled 21,000 adults with either a history of stroke or poorly controlled blood pressure from 600 villages in rural areas of five provinces in China—Hebei, Liaoning, Ningxia, Shanxi and Shaanxi between April 2014 and January 2015.

Participants in intervention villages were provided enough salt substitute (about 20g per person per day free-of-charge) to cover all household cooking and food preservation requirements. Those in the other villages continued using regular salt.

During an average follow up of almost five years, more than 3,000 people had a stroke. For those using the salt substitute, researchers found that stroke risk was reduced by 14 percent, total cardiovascular events (strokes and heart attacks combined) by 13 percent and premature death by 12 percent.

As a result of the study, George Institute researchers have called on salt manufacturers and retailers worldwide to switch to producing and marketing salt substitute at scale, urging governments worldwide todesign polices to promote salt substitute and discourage regular salt use.

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