Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found the most effective approach for reducing salt intake which remains a high priority for health professionals.
Non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention strategies now prioritise four major risk factors: food, tobacco, alcohol and physical activity. However, dietary salt intake remains much higher than recommended.
Many of us in the UK eat too much salt. Too much salt can raise blood pressure, which can put people at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Substantial reductions in salt intake are therefore urgently needed.
The researchers from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society systematically reviewed the evidence on the effectiveness of possible salt reduction intervention approaches by screening more than 2,500 research papers.
Interventions are classified along the ‘upstream’ / ‘downstream’ continuum.
The ‘upstream’ or social approach aims to shape the conditions in which we live in society and is a population-based approach. Upstream actions therefore target the food and the broader socioeconomic environments. Actions can include regulation, taxation, employment, education, housing and welfare.
‘Downstream’ approaches are typically individual-based, relying on the individual to change their behaviour.
The researchers compared these two approaches and found that comprehensive strategies involving multiple components (reformulation, food labelling and media campaigns) and ‘upstream’ population-wide policies such as mandatory reformulation generally appear to achieve larger reductions in population-wide salt consumption than ‘downstream’, individually focussed interventions such as giving people advice.
Lirije Hyseni, said: “This ‘effectiveness hierarchy’ might deserve greater emphasis in future NCD prevention strategies.”
The full study, entitled ‘Systematic review of dietary salt reduction policies: Evidence for an effectiveness hierarchy?’, can be found here.