A diet high in salt contributed to 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010, a study released Thursday found.
Even more shocking was that 40 percent of those deaths were premature, according to the Harvard researchers.
The results, which were presented Thursday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in New Orleans, showed that the US ranked 19th of the 30 largest countries studied for deaths due to excess salt, Bloomberg reported.
The research comes on the heels of a study linking sugary drinks to 25,000 US deaths a year.
Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, author of both the salt and sugar studies from Harvard, said the figures suggest that salty food is even more dangerous, ABC News reported.
“The burden of sodium is much higher than the burden of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“That’s because sugar-sweetened beverages are just one type of food that people can avoid, whereas sodium is in everything.”
“It’s really amazing how pervasive it is,” Mozaffarian said of salt. “For the average person, it’s very hard to avoid salt – you have to be incredibly motivated, incredibly educated, have access to a range of foods and do all the cooking yourself.”
The researchers believe national and global public-health measures are needed to potentially save millions of lives from early heart attacks and strokes.