Associate Professor Bruce Neal, director of the cardiac and renal division of The George Institute told the American College of Cardiologys 55th Annual Scientific Session that the new substitute offers a new low cost strategy for the prevention cardiovascular disease (CVD).
CVD causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated 169 billion ($202 billion) per year. According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 percent of Americans (70.1 million people) suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002.
The researchers studied the effects of the salt substitute on high-risk residents of northern, rural China, where salt consumption is very high and elevated blood pressure levels are extremely prevalent.
"CVD has been the main cause of death in China for some time now. Our goal is to help identify practical new ways of addressing this serious health problem. We are particularly interested in strategies that will work in poor rural areas where preventive care is currently very limited.
Among the 600 individuals studied in rural Northern China, the low-sodium high-potassium salt substitute demonstrated that it could reduce blood pressure to about the same extent as single drug therapy," said Neal
Details of the actual formulation of the salt substitute have not been released, but Neal mentioned that it was high in potassium.
The low sodium alternative salt market has been growing in recent years as awareness of salt intake has increased. There has been a noticeable shift away from salt in recent years - according to market analyst Mintel, the salt sector in the UK has seen sales fall 13 per cent from 23 million in 2000 to about 20 million in 2005.
Table and cooking salt have been the main casualties, losing 15 per cent and 17 per cent of volume sales respectively between 2003 and 2005. In contrast, sea/rock salt and low sodium alternatives have increased, but between them they account for just 20 per cent of the total salt market, not enough to stem the decline.
The UK government estimates that processed foods, from soups and sauces to breakfast cereals and snacks, contribute about 75 per cent to people's salt intakes.