Help cut cancer by flagging up dangers of salt, says charity
Better “traffic light” food labelling is needed to reduce the number of cases of stomach cancer linked to salt, experts have said.
Too much salt is believed to promote cancer by damaging the stomach lining.
An estimated 14 per cent of stomach cancers in the UK – one in seven cases – could be avoided by reducing salt intake to recommended levels, it is claimed.
People in the UK consume an average of 8.6 grams each day, much of it hidden in processed food. This is 43 per cent higher than the maximum recommended amount of six grams, equivalent to one level teaspoonful.
A standardised form of colour-coded “traffic light” food labelling would help consumers monitor their consumption of salt, sugar and fat, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
Kate Mendoza, head of information at the charity, said: “Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.
“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.”
She added: “Because around three-quarters of the salt we consume is already in processed food when we buy it, WCRF would like to see traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink packaging to give clear guidance on the levels of salt as well as sugar, fat and saturated fat.
“Standardised labelling among retailers and manufacturers – rather than the different voluntary systems currently in place – would help consumers make better informed and healthy choices.”
Each year in the UK, about 7,500 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed and almost 5,000 people die from the disease.
Cutting salt intake to six grams a day could prevent 1,050 of these cases, according to the WCRF.
Excess salt is also linked to high blood pressure, the main cause of strokes and a significant cause of heart disease, as well as osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Healthy recipe ideas that feature reduced salt can be found on the WCRF website www.wcrf-uk.org.
A department of health spokesman said: “We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
“That is why we are taking action to help reduce the salt in people’s diets. And we are looking at clearer salt 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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