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This Eating Habit Contributes to a High Risk of Premature Death, New Study Finds

Shake this eating habit to lower your risk.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

It seems like we are always trying to search for how to live forever (or at least into our 100s). One of the proven ways your longevity is affected has to do with what you put into your body. When it comes to your body health, you always want to make sure you are drinking the right beverages and eating the right foods. Whether you currently have a disease, you're at risk of developing something, or you just want to ensure your body remains in its prime condition, keeping your body in check is important for a longer and healthier life.

As important as it is to watch what you put into your body, you may also not realize the little habits you have that can contribute to poor health and essentially a shortened life. According to a recent study published in the European Society of Cardiology, people who add extra salt to their food while sitting at the table are at a higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

Approximately 501,379 people took part in the UK Biobank stud between 2006 and 2010. The participants were asked by a questionnaire whether they added salt to their foods. The options were either never/rarely, sometimes, usually, always, or prefer not to answer. Those who preferred not to answer were not included in the analysis.

Researchers took into consideration other factors that could affect the outcomes. This included age, sex, race, deprivation, body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, and diet. They also took into consideration any medical conditions the participants may have.

The study defined dying prematurely as death before the age of 75 years old. After following the participants for about nine years, research showed that when compared to those who never or rarely added salt, those who always added salt to their food had a 28% increased risk of dying prematurely.

Furthermore, the study suggested there was a lower life expectancy among the participants who always added salt. At the age of 50, women's life expectancy was taken down by an average of 1.5 years. For men, it was 2.28 years.

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The salt shaker isn't the only source of sodium to be mindful of

woman refusing salt shaker
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"This epidemiological study is the first of its kind looking at the relationship between the salt shaker at the table and how often folks use it," shares Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND award-winning nutrition expert, and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook.

According to Amidor, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reveal that, on average, Americans consume 3,393 milligrams of sodium per day. Meanwhile, the limit recommended is 2,300 milligrams. She further shares that the top sources of sodium in the diet are not from the salt shaker. Instead, they're sandwiches (21%), rice, pasta, and other grain-based dishes (8%).

"Adding table salt is really not the main source of where our sodium is coming from," Amidor says.

How to lower your sodium intake

Although the salt shaker may not be the primary culprit, she still advises being mindful of how much you're adding.

"However, as a registered dietitian, I do advise against using the salt shaker before tasting your food to check if you really need it," she says.

In addition, Amidor recommends purchasing canned food with no added salt or low in sodium.

"Research also reveals that up to 40% of the sodium is removed when rinsing canned beans in water," she says. "There are also techniques for cooking at home to help reduce sodium. Like, using low-sodium chicken broth and reduced sodium or lite soy sauce."

She also advises that when dining out, be mindful that most dishes are extremely high in sodium. She suggests that many contain at least 75% of the daily recommended sodium intake. As such, dining out less often or using the nutrition facts panel at an establishment where available, can certainly help.

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"As a society, we consume way too much sodium," Amidor says. "Being mindful of the salt shaker is certainly a method to help reduce consumption. But, there are more prevalent sources of our sodium that shouldn't be left out when you're trying to change your sodium habits."

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano is a Staff Writer for Eat This, Not That! She graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more