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 298.

    It has been variously estimated that approximately 46,227 cases of stomach cancer could be avoided if we gave up the carcinogens in coffee, tea, cocoa, meats, all fried, grilled, bbq'd and broiled foods, sugar and sweeteners. As most people are unaware of this, they continue to consume these foods to their heart's content and have thus greatly reduced the total number of cases.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    No one is saying dont eat salt they are telling you to use your loaf and not eat loads of it everyday. Its not rocket science is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    This is getting beyond a joke. Breakfast cereals have salt (bad)? Many also have fibre (good). How on earth are we non-nutritionists to choose? It's all right for researchers to chase academic glory by publishing this stuff, but where's the objective analysis and advice on the balance of risks? This is where I expect the BBC to educate and inform me. Fat (!) chance of that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    fantastic, salt's in the firing line properly at last. artificial sweeteners and preservatives, you're next

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    The Frank Zappa diet? Quoted as Food = smoking and drink = coffee.
    His music's still with us and.... Hang about, there's a flaw in that argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Boy... You guys in Britian are lucky. A limit of 6 g / day.

    Here in Canada the recommened amount of salt is 2.3 g / day. 1.5 if you have high blood pressure. Rip the prepared (frozen / boxed) foods out of your diet and cook from scratch. Restaurants too, they use processed foods almost exclusively.
    Soon, very salty foods taste unnatural.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Now government wants to make bland food more blander. where do u guys get that british men eat more salt. britons eat the lowest quantity of salt in the world....

  • Comment number 291.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    The list of things that are bad for us grows, daily it seems, I wonder who profits from the things that are bad for us, and do they pay their taxes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Part of the problem today is our mentality with food, we feed ourselves to satisfy our appetites, taste buds and selfish indulgence in Western countries compared to hundreds of years ago where we would hunt, grow and farm food in order to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    What causes High Blood Pressure.
    Uric acid.
    What is the main cause of Uric acid.
    Fructose metabolism, the byproduct of which is URIC ACID. And increased uric acid levels drive up your blood pressure. The amount of salt people consume in the Western World is a fraction of the amount of fructose we consume on a daily basis!

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Better get onto the Olypic sponsors with this cutting-edge report!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    278. Nebiroth
    If you were one of the 800 lying in a hospital bed enduring a lingering, painful death from stomach cancer,

    And you wouldn't know whether it was salt

    Road deaths down?, Brake “our lobbying” IAM “our courses” MOT “harder driving test” Ford “our designs” BMA “improvements in medicine” Air ambulance charity “our donations”. And they all want your money!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Surely it's easy to minimise processed food intake. Try cooking - something schools and parents used to teach! (in bulk and freeze for instant meals). Most ready meals cost more any way so you'll save money and get healthier. Then still enjoy your shop bought bread and bacon sarnies.
    Yep, from a single guy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    It's a well known maxim in technical troubleshooting that, if you can't refine or understand a problem - it's usually because there is actually more than one problem. I imagine the same is true with cancer, only far more so. Stories like this "salt" one will someday be seen as the medical equivalent of me saying "I have no display on my computer therefore my power supply must be broken".

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    My Father died of a Hospital caught infection, so my main fear of death is with the NHS. I'll keep putting the salt and vinegar on my fish and chips every time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    There's no evidence for salt causing heart disease or strokes, beyond some scientific theories. Isn't the same true for this pronouncement? "Cancer Research UK said this figure could be even higher" highlights their lack of hard evidence - they simply don't know, but think it's a great idea.

    Here's some advice - take regular exercise. And if you do, more salt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Sorry, I meant 0.3 grams a slice for Tesco's bread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    271. Higgs bosun

    I apologise for going on a bit - but your post highlights the nonsense that we are daily subjected to.



    Please BBC... stop treating your customers as idiots! If you can't be impartial - don't bother. You are supposed to be balanced in your reporting. This is pure bias.


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