European Society of Cardiology

European Society of Cardiology

Source:

Neal B, et al. Hot Line: SSaSS. Presented at: European Society of Cardiology Congress; Aug. 27-30, 2021 (virtual meeting).


Disclosures: Neal reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures. Ingelfinger reports employment by The New England Journal of Medicine as deputy editor.

August 29, 2021
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Switching to salt substitute decreased stroke risk by 14%

Source:

Neal B, et al. Hot Line: SSaSS. Presented at: European Society of Cardiology Congress; Aug. 27-30, 2021 (virtual meeting).


Disclosures: Neal reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures. Ingelfinger reports employment by The New England Journal of Medicine as deputy editor.

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Switching from regular salt to a salt substitute reduced the risk for stroke, major CV events and death in a large trial of adults in rural China with a history of stroke or high risk for stroke.

Among nearly 21,000 adults and over a mean follow-up of 4.74 years, the rate of stroke was 14% lower with use of a salt substitute compared with regular salt (29.14 vs. 33.65 events per 1,000 person-years; RR = 0.85; 95% CI, 0.77-0.96; P = .006).

Salt
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Results of the Salt Substitute and Stroke Study (SaSS) were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The rationale for salt substitutes is that higher dietary sodium consumption and lower dietary potassium consumption is associated with elevated BP levels, and potassium-enriched salt substitutes have a dual BP-lowering effect,” Bruce Neal, MB, ChB, PhD, scientific director at The George Institute for Global Health, said during a press conference. “Before we did SSaSS, we had pretty good evidence that salt substitutes did lower BP, but we lacked data about their effect on strokes and heart attacks. There were also concerns about supplementing people’s diets with potassium, because it could cause hyperkalemia in people with severe kidney disease.”

Evidence of CV protection

The open-label, cluster-randomized trial enrolled 20,995 adults from rural villages in China who had a history of stroke or were aged 60 years and older and had high BP. The participants’ mean age was 65 years, 49.5% were women, 72.6% had a history of stroke and 88.4% had hypertension.

Participants were randomly assigned to use regular salt or a salt substitute consisting of 70% sodium chloride and 25% potassium chloride. Participants were instructed to use the regular salt as they usually would or to use the salt substitute in place of regular salt for cooking, seasoning and food preservation, more sparingly than their previous use of regular salt.

In addition to the reduction in the primary outcome of stroke, the rate of major adverse CV events, a composite of nonfatal stroke, nonfatal acute coronary syndrome or death from vascular causes, was 13% lower among participants in the salt substitute group (49.09 events vs. 56.29 events per 1,000 person-years; RR = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.8-0.94; P < .001). All-cause mortality was 12% lower in the salt substitute group (39.28 events vs. 44.61 events per 1,000 person-years; RR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.82-0.95; P < .001).

The researchers calculated a mean different in systolic BP of –3.34 mm Hg).

There were no between-group differences in rate of serious adverse events attributed to hyperkalemia.

‘Intriguing hints’ of benefit

The study is one of the largest dietary intervention trials completed, Neal said.

“The key question is whether the results from SSaSS, done in China, are likely to be generalizable to other populations,” Neal said. “The answer to that is almost certainly yes. The way the body manages sodium, potassium, the associations with BP, are highly constant among diverse populations around the world.”

Julie R. Ingelfinger

In a related editorial, Julie R. Ingelfinger, MD, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, senior consultant in pediatric nephrology and pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital, and a deputy editor of NEJM, noted that processed food is rarely used in the rural Chinese villages studied in SSaSS; dietary sodium chloride is added during food preparation within each household — a sharp contrast with typical Western diets.

“Commercial food preservation adds much sodium chloride to the diet and the use of salt substitutes would not even begin to account for most salt intake,” Ingelfinger wrote.

Calling the results impressive, Ingelfinger wrote that the salt-substitute approach might have a major public health consequence in China, and possibly elsewhere, if the strategy is feasible over time.

“Overall, SSaSS provides some intriguing hints, but wider effectiveness is hard to predict, given limited generalizability,” Ingelfinger wrote.

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