Reducing salt 'would cut cancer'

Salt on bread Salt is in many foods, such as bread.

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Cutting back on salty foods such as bacon, bread and breakfast cereals may reduce people's risk of developing stomach cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

It wants people to eat less salt and for the content of food to be labelled more clearly.

In the UK, the WCRF said one-in-seven stomach cancers would be prevented if people kept to daily guidelines.

Cancer Research UK said this figure could be even higher.

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer.

The recommended daily limit is 6g, about a level teaspoonful, but the World Cancer Research Fund said people were eating 8.6g a day.


There are around 6,000 cases of stomach cancer every year in the UK. The WCRF estimated that 14% of cases, around 800, could be avoided if everyone stuck to their 6g a day.

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: "Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

Katharine Jenner from Consensus Action on Salt and Health, says eating less than six grammes of salt could prevent stroke and cancer deaths

"This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables."

Eating too much salt is not all about sprinkling it over fish and chips or Sunday lunch, the vast majority is already inside food.

It is why the WCRF has called for a "traffic-light" system for food labelling - red for high, amber for medium and green for low.

However, this has proved controversial with many food manufacturers and supermarkets preferring other ways of labelling food.

Lucy Boyd, from Cancer Research UK, said: "This research confirms what a recently published report from Cancer Research UK has shown - too much salt also contributes considerably to the number of people getting stomach cancer in the UK.

"On average people in Britain eat too much salt and intake is highest in men.

"Improved labelling - such as traffic light labelling - could be a useful step to help consumers cut down."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. That is why we are taking action through the 'Responsibility Deal' to help reduce the salt in people's diets. And we are looking at clearer... labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front-of-pack labelling.

"We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    A lot of people seem to think it is not Government's job to encourage consumers to lead a healthier life style. The flaw in the Nanny State argument is that when things go wrong for those eating junk food - the rest of us have no choice but to pick up their medical bills. So the traffic lights system is a fair compromise between consumer freedom and the rising NHS costs from poor diet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    If you are of the older generation you can remember when there was NO food labelling, and the salt was next to the vinegar in the local chippie!
    No-one worried about salt then!
    Worry is the real killer.
    Listen to all the gloom+Doom stuff from media!! All problems!
    Look for "solutions" folks, `cos the "experts" haven`t got a clue!
    One day we are born, another day we die.
    Enjoy the bit in between!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Cook from fresh food whenever you can. That way you get to control salt, sugar and colourings. Fresh in-season food also costs less than manufactured food. Even cooking some of your own bread isn't that difficult or time-consuming. Flour doesn't contain salt. Also there are many breakfast cereals that do no contain much, if any, sugar or salt. eg unflavoured porridge.

    Come on. It's not that hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    The salt levels of processed food is so high that it is extremely difficult to eat less than 6gm of salt a day, even if you add no salt to your food. Even a relatively healthy food like cheese typically has over 2% salt. Convenience foods like instant cups of soup can hold 2gm of salt in a single serving. Follow Finland's example in forcing manufacturers to use alternatives to Sodium Chloride.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    We complain that manufacturers don't put labels on packaging but honestly, deep down, we know if something is good for us or bad for us. If individuals are really concerned, they should take responsibility for themselves and their families and leave the ignorant to their own fate.


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