U.S. Kids' Diet Too Salty for Their Health
The average child or teen in the U.S. consumes nearly 3,400 mg of sodium each day - or more than 1,000 mg above the recommended maximum. Some researchers say that high salt intake is what's driving an increase in high blood pressure among kids.
In a recent study, researchers found that normal-weight kids ate the most salt, followed by obese and then overweight kids. Among the study participants, 37 percent were overweight or obese.
Eating a lot of sodium/salt raises systolic blood pressure and increases the risk for pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure in children and teens, says researcher Quanhe Yang at the CDC.
The latest government dietary guidelines recommend that most Americans not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, although most people would be fine with significantly less sodium. In general, the minimum amount of sodium recommended for most Americans is 1,500 mg daily.
The current study included data on more than 6,200 U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 18 gathered from 2003 to 2008.
Michael Moritz, M.D., at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, says it's not yet clear what impact, if any, the high-salt trend will have on children's future health.
"It was interesting that for kids who are of normal weight, the sodium intake didn't have as big an impact on blood pressure as it did for children who were overweight and obese," Dr. Moritz says.
"We know that being overweight predisposes you to high blood pressure and [that] sodium can also increase the risk of high blood pressure, but the question is, what happens when they occur in relationship to each other?"
Pediatric dietitian Lauren Graf, R.D., of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, says eating a lot of salt isn't good for anyone, in the long term.
She says parents should avoid buying heavily processed foods - those that come in cans and boxes - because they have the highest levels of sodium.
Graf recommends giving kids more fruits and vegetables and whole-grain foods that haven't been overly processed. "The more you buy fresh foods, the less you have to focus on counting sodium milligrams."
The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.