The current sodium intake by South Africans was seven grams per day, while the World Health Organisation guidelines recommended an intake of four to six grams per day, according to the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (Pure) study.
The SA Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases recommended that the entire population lower its sodium intake to below five grams per day by 2020.
Salt contains sodium.
The Pure study, which was led by investigators from the Population Health Research Institute, McMaster University, and Hamilton Health Sciences in Canada, followed more than 100,000 people for almost four years.
The study assessed sodium and potassium intake and related them to blood pressure, deaths, heart disease, and strokes.
The results of the study were put together by hundreds of investigators from 18 countries.
Professor Thandi Puoane, from the University of the Western Cape, was one of two South African researchers involved. The researchers were responsible for the urban site in Langa, Cape Town, and the rural site in Mount Frere, Eastern Cape.
“My research has shown that poor people often say ‘we eat porridge and salt because we have nothing else to eat’,” she said in a statement.
“The basic fact is that these people may consume too much salt, which is dangerous as they do not eat enough fruit and vegetables which are high in potassium to balance the salt consumed.”