Salt Overload: Kids Are Eating Too Much, Increasing Health Risks
September 17, 2012

Salt Overload: Kids Are Eating Too Much, Increasing Health Risks

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Too much salt in your diet leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). And a recent study has found that children are consuming as much salt as adults do, leading those who consume the highest amounts to have a two to three times greater risk of developing HBP as kids who get the least amount.

Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said kids are getting about 1,000 milligrams of sodium too much in their daily diet, about the same amount as what is found in a Whopper® sandwich. And in kids who are already overweight or obese, the effects of this extra sodium greatly impacts the likelihood of developing HBP.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed the diets of 6,235 kids ages 8 to 18. The information was based on dietary recall from the children themselves or with the help of an adult. The data show that children are consuming, on average, about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which is in line with what adults typically consume in an average day.

The recommended daily allotment for salt intake for kids and adults is no more than 1 teaspoon daily, about 2,300 mg. While they found that some kids were averaging less than the daily allotment, some were  consuming nearly 4 times the recommended daily intake, or about 8,100 mg.

The CDC study found that kids in the top quarter who consumed the highest amount of sodium had two times greater risk of elevated HBP as kids in the lowest quarter of salt intake. And overweight and obese kids in the top quarter who consumed the highest amount of salt had an increased risk factor of 3.5 times over those in the lowest quarter.

Overall, the researchers found that 15 percent of students in the study had either HBP or slightly elevated blood pressure (pre-hypertension).

Quanhe Yang, lead researcher in the study, said elevated or high blood pressure in children increases the risk of having hypertension during adulthood, exponentially raising the risk for heart disease and stroke. While it remains unclear why heavier kids are more sensitive to salt intake, Yang believes it may be due to obesity-related hormone changes.

Several health agencies, including those on the local, state and federal level, have been working to reduce salt intake. By reducing sodium consumption in children, it will save millions of dollars in healthcare costs as these children age, as lowering blood pressure now will mean less likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke later in life.

A huge portion of sodium consumption comes from processed foods, such as lunch meat, cheese, and canned foods, as well as restaurant and fast food products.

“A big message here is that we should be more concerned about the salt intake of our kids. There is increasing evidence that kids are eating too much salt, and it can have an adverse impact on their health,” American Heart Association (AHA) spokesman Stephen Daniels told USA Today´s Nanci Hellmich in an interview.

The AHA adds that sodium may increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. And HBP means that the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force, putting increased pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. The scar tissue that forms to repair those tears traps plaque and white blood cells, which can lead to blockages, blood clots and hardened, weakened arteries, the AHA states.

Another recent CDC study showed that more than half of the 67 million American adults who have HBP do not have it under control.