By Daniel Machin
People eating less salt in their diets has led to a fall in the number of heart disease deaths in England, a study suggests.
Researchers have found that average salt intake decreased by around 15% between 2003 and 2011, while the number of deaths from heart disease reduced by 40% and stroke deaths fell by 42%.
They claim this dip in salt consumption has played an "important role" in the plummeting number of heart disease deaths.
A reduction in salt is known to reduce blood pressure, which is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
The research examined 31,500 people's risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease from Health Survey England results in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
Falls in blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking rates and an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption were also noted during the period, although there was a rise in average body mass index rates.
Salt intake, which was measured from the urine samples of 3,000 people taking part in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey between 2003 and 2011, decreased by 1.4g a day - a 15 per cent contraction.
Average salt consumption 'still far higher than it should be'
But the study authors from Queen Mary University and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry insist the average salt consumption across the country is still far higher than it should be.
The mean salt intake in England of 8.1 g/day in 2011 was still 35 per cent higher than the recommended level of 6g/day.
Furthermore, some 70% of the adult population had a daily salt intake above the recommended level - 80%of men and 58% of women.
In light of these figures, the researchers are calling for much greater efforts to achieve further reductions in salt intake to prevent the maximum number of stroke and ischaemic heart disease deaths.
"The reduction in salt intake is likely to be an important contributor to the falls in blood pressure in England from 2003 to 2011," they concluded.
"As a result, the decrease in salt intake would have played an important role in the reduction in stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality during this period."