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The big benefit of a small intervention

    This is Science Today. If Americans reduced their dietary salt intake by as little as a half a teaspoon per day, nearly 100,000 heart attacks and 92,000 deaths each year could be prevented. University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo explains.

Bibbins-Domingo:    So, large effects from a pretty small intervention. The second thing we did was we asked, how big is that benefit compared to other things we really care about that we know to be important health interventions, like reducing smoking.

Narrator:    They found that a modest reduction in salt was quite comparable to cutting the number of U.S. smokers by half and reducing the number of people exposed to secondhand smoke by half.

Bibbins-Domingo:    Many people were surprised by that finding. But the number of smokers in the U.S. has actually been going down and you have then large benefits in that small number of people that smoke and that translates in the population to the same magnitude overall of having reducing salt in the diet because that intervention results in very small benefits to everybody.

Narrator:    For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.