Salt reduction policies in Syria before the crisis. What about after?



Whenever I hear about salt reduction policies, I cannot help thinking about this paper looking into the salt content in staff canteens of salt policy makers, that we talked about (together with other fun studies) in a previous blog post. (this study showed that the salt content 18 staff canteens of salt policy makers was higher than the recommended amount, by the way. Oops!)

On a more serious note, according to the WHO, “high salt consumption is a major factor contributing to increased blood pressure, strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases and linked to other non-communicable diseases such as strokes, left ventricular hypertrophy and renal disease”. According to the same source an astonishing 70-75% of salt consumed is hidden in processed foods and food products, such as bread. Due to the seriousness of the problem, a number of European countries are applying initiatives to reduce salt intake, following different approaches.
We have just published a study analyzing the cost-effectiveness of different salt-reduction policies to reduce coronary heart disease in Syria. In the years 1996-2006 the coronary heart disease mortality has increased by two thirds in Syria and -together with stroke- accounts for almost half of the country’s all-cause mortality. This study is based on data from MedCHAMPS project, that studied the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of salt reduction policies in 4 middle income Eastern Mediterranean countries and recommends the best option for Syria, also taking into account the current socioeconomic and political situation.

The salt reduction policies studies were the following:

(a) Health promotion campaign about salt reduction

(b) Labeling of salt content on packaged foods

(c) Reformulation of salt content within packaged foods and

(d) Combinations of the above

The authors report that all policies are cost-saving and cost-effective. The combination of all three policies, however, brings the largest gain in life years. The authors note, however, that this analysis is a “best-case scenario” as the data used were collected before the crisis in the region. They note that “the decreased availability of timely and adequate treatment resulting from the current crisis will likely increase future coronary heart disease mortality and subsequent health care costs in Syria”.  Read more about the  health crisis in Syria in this NY times article.


This study was written by



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