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Teens: Reducing Salt Could Lead To Healthier Adulthood

November 15, 2010

Researchers reported on Sunday that if teens consumed less salt in their diets they could cut their risk for heart disease and stroke significantly in adulthood.

The scientists projected that a 3,000-milligram reduction in sodium by teenagers could reduce hypertension by 30 percent to 43 percent when they become adults.

Hypertension is a common condition that may have no symptoms for years, but can eventually lead to a heart attacks and strokes.

According to data presented at the scientific sessions at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago this week, other benefits over time as teens hit 50 years of age include a 7 percent to 12 percent reduction in coronary heart disease, an 8 percent to 14 percent reduction in heart attacks, and a 5 percent to 8 percent reduction in stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams.  Teenagers consume more sodium than any other age group.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, pizza is one of the biggest problems for teens when it comes to sodium.

About 80 percent of salt comes from processed or prepared foods, while 35 percent of that in cereals, breads and pastries.

“The hidden places of salt in our diet are in breads and cereals, canned foods and condiments, and of course fast foods,” said Bibbins-Domingo, also co-director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. “Most of the salt that we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat.”

By reducing the amount of salt intake for teens, researchers predict a 44 percent to 63 percent decrease in the number of hypertensive teenagers and young adults.

“The additional benefit of lower salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Most of the salt we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat,” she added.

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