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 82.

    Surely the point is why there are such high levels of salt in certain foods in the first place? Processed foods are generally nutrition-low & largely flavourless until the manufacturers add lots of fat, sugar &/or salt to make them taste nice. All three are very cheap, addictive and, in such large quantities, extremely bad for health. It's no wonder the food giants don't want effective labelling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Shame on the fools who scoff at proper peer reviewed research with their "it's all scaremongering" arrogance. If research hadn't prevailed over the dangers of smoking and high cholesterol etc, which were also scoffed at, half of you might be dead by now. Publicly decrying cancer research with nothing more than uninformed derisive snorts perpetuates stupid attitudes and undermines real progress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Of course the organizations have vested interests - that's why they exist... to educate people that may not know that, for example, even a little too much salt (12g vs 6g) could be seriously damaging to their health. Whether you do anything with that info is up to you, but at least you know. What these guys are calling for is better labelling on ready meals, not for everyone to abandon salt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    All stories like this lead me to conclude that my education was lacking and that society is happy with the idea that we should be stupid. Because health stories are always scaremongering, without detailed figures and never presented in context. I bet you that Victorian newspapers had more technical content than today's news. Dumbing down has led to an infantile society being lectured by experts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Reducing salt is no doubt a good thing, but what about fruit? It seems to me that Britain is a fruit free zone. I've given up on buying fruit from UK supermarkets. It's a disgrace. So much of it is not ripe and never ripens. I end up throwing fruit away. In France and Italy, fruit tastes good - it's soft and sweet. UK supermarkets have developed their supply chains to deliver dead, tasteless fruit


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