ST121108(11) White bread and butter.Picture:Bonile Bam

Cape Town - The proposed legislation to cut salt content in South African food products will not only have economic benefits for the country, but it will save lives and cut the number of sufferers of cardiovascular diseases, a study has suggested.

In a report to be published in the SA Medical Journal next month, researchers from Wits School of Public Health and the Chronic Disease Initiative in Africa (CDIA) say the move to regulate the industry could prevent up to 7 000 deaths and 4 000 strokes a year.

In a systematic review of existing studies entitled “The impact of reducing sodium content in high salt food on cardiovascular diseases in SA”, researchers suggest that just by reducing the amount of salt used in bread by 50 percent, and in other foods such as cereals and margarine, salt intake would be reduced by 0.85g per day.

Professor Krisela Steyn from UCT, a co-author of the study, said the research showed that bread remained the biggest contributor to salt intake in SA.

She said the proposed legislation to reduce salt content by half was an important step as bread contributed about 40 percent of South Africans’ salt intake.

She said the latest research also showed that just four slices of bread with margarine contained half of the 5g daily recommendation of salt.

According to the regulations, foods that would have their salt content reduced in the next four years include bread, milk, butter, snacks, breakfast cereals and processed meats. - Cape Argus