KARACHI (PPI) Although everyone needs a healthy amount of salt intake, consuming too much can be deadly. Salt is critical to life, as it helps to maintain the water content in our blood, balances the bloods acids and bases, and is essential for the movement of electrical charges in the nerves that move our muscles. However, the consumption of too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, a diet high in salt content is often associated with weight gain. According to results of a new analysis performed by Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues, a reduction in salt consumption would be a very healthy move for Americans. If the U.S. population decreased its daily salt intake by just one-half teaspoon, the health benefits would be almost equivalent to a substantial decrease in obesity rates, the prevention of heart attacks through treating practically everyone with cholesterol drugs, and a smoking reduction in the amount of 50 percent. Individuals who choose to avoid high-calorie, low-fiber, and processed foods, such as those found in fast food restaurant meals and on supermarket shelves, can achieve a healthy level of salt intake. A low-salt diet is one that normally consists of the lower calorie, healthier foods associated with weight loss. The researchers stated that cutting salt consumption by a small amount is an easily attainable goal that would prevent between 11,000 and 23,000 strokes, 18,000 to 35,000 heart attacks, and from 15,000 to 32,000 deaths resulting from any cause. On the average, American men consume 10.4 grams of salt, while American women average a salt intake of 7.3 grams daily. These numbers continue to rise, with 75 to 80 percent of all salt consumed coming from processed food. The researchers wrote, Even if the federal government were to bear the entire cost of a regulatory program designed to reduce salt consumption, the government would still be expected to realise cost savings for Medicare, saving $6 to $12 in health expenditures for each dollar spent on the regulatory program. The study used a computerised model to analyse data from prior studies to determine an estimation of the blood pressure-lowering benefits associated with a decrease in salt consumption, and the impact of lower blood pressure on the reduction of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks. Findings revealed a benefit for everyone who consumed less salt, however, the greatest benefit was found among people having a high risk for heart problems, including blacks, people suffering from hypertension, and seniors over the age of 65. A panel appointed by the independent research arm of the National Academies of Science, known as the Institute of Medicine, is expected to issue a report making recommendations as to actions that can be taken by the government as well as manufacturers for reducing the intake of salt. In addition, Dr Bibbins-Domingo said the US Food and Drug Administration deliberating as to whether or not to re-categorise salt, currently designated as a safe food additive, to one that would require product labeling that would warn consumers about high levels of salt contained in food. Dr Bibbins-Domingo also said that California is contemplating placing restrictions on salt content of food purchased by the state for public institutions, such as schools and prisons.