Cutting teen salt could save future health costs
November 14th, 2010
10:31 AM ET

Cutting teen salt could save future health costs

Reducing the amount of salt teens eat by 3 grams per day – that's about 1,200 milligrams (of sodium) or a 1/2 teaspoon of salt – could lead to a 68 percent decrease in the number of teenagers with hypertension and also lower the number of U.S. adults with heart conditions in the future, says new research from epidemiologists at University of California, San Francisco. [Update: Some commenters expressed confusion about the 1,200 milligrams. This number is the amount of sodium in 3 grams of salt. The American Heart Association also answers questions about sodium on their website.]

Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks, and although these problems are not common in teens, studies have found that young adults in their 20s and 30s who have high blood pressure often began the struggle as children.

Dr. Kristin Bibbins-Domingo, lead author of the UCSF study, says the taste for salt is a learned behavior, and so early intervention is key. "We can hopefully change the expectation of how food should taste,  ideally to something slightly less salty," she says.

Bibbins-Domingo used a computer model to analyze cardiovascular disease in teenagers between ages 12 and 18 and predict how lowering salt intake for this age group could help decrease the numbers of hypertensive adults in the future.

The study found that if teenagers today started eating a 1/2 teaspoon less of salt each day, there could be as much as a 43 percent decrease in the more than 2.7 million adults between ages 35 and 50 who suffer from hypertension.

"If you start with higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers in your teens, you'll likely have even higher numbers in your 20s and 30s." Bibbins-Domingo explains.  "Your body gets accustomed to foods you eat, so the key is to set habits for healthy eating throughout your life."

The results of this study are being presented at this year's American Heart Association Scientific Session.

The USDA currently recommends people over age 2 eat fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium per day – the equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt. However, researchers say most Americans eat nearly twice that much, with teenagers consuming more salty food than any other age group.

Experts say paying attention to nutrition labels and making gradual reductions in the amount of sodium your teenager eats can help.  For a list of common foods and the estimated number of milligrams of sodium each contains, visit the USDA's National Nutrient Database. Also, the National Institutes of Health provides this blood pressure table, to help you understand the healthy blood pressure ranges for children between ages one and 17.

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Filed under: Heart • Nutrition

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Nate

    3 grams = 1,200 miligrams? Really?! Looks like someone fell asleep in their 6th grade science class.

    November 14, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Quizzle

      Yeah, I noticed that, too. Where are the editors? You would think someone at CNN would notice. I wonder how many eyes see any article before it's posted.

      Please hire me as an editor, CNN. And pay me more than whatever this one makes.

      November 14, 2010 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      I was wondering how they would get such a bizarre number like 1200, and then after some searching I realized what they did. It turns out that 3 grams of SALT has about 1200 milligrams of SODIUM.

      November 14, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      Yeah, I thought that was ridiculous as well. I may not have been brought up on the metric system, but it's not exactly rocket surgery.

      November 14, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff


      Rocket surgery?

      November 14, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      @ Jeff

      It's a Boondock Saints Reference

      November 14, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      The article is kind of right. 3000 mg of NaCl (table salt) contains about 1180 mg of Na which is pretty close to 1200 mg. It is the Na that causes the problem.

      November 14, 2010 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
    • RIch

      3000mg table salt (sodium chloride – NaCl) = approximately 1179mg sodium. While not well written, it is not a "careless mistake".

      November 14, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
    • karan

      No it is not referring to the salt content not sodium, which btw weighs less than chloride on the periodic table, it is referring to "Salt", so I dunno if the guy writing this article ever noticed it, simple mistake i guess. But yes the first line is wrong lol,

      November 14, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse |
    • opinionguru

      This is as credible as the "Balloon-Boy" article...not doing yourselves any favors CNN.

      November 15, 2010 at 00:04 | Report abuse |
    • corndog

      So to clarify, the 3 grams and 1/2 teaspoon both refer to salt, while the 1200 mg actually refers to sodium. Yeah that is very poor scientific writing.

      November 15, 2010 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
    • Wierd

      Where do they hire these people? Someone needs a special present on their desk in the morning... Hey Editor!!!!

      November 15, 2010 at 05:01 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Sodium Chloride is salt. 1200 mg is the Sodium and 1800 mg is the Chloride which totals 3 grams or 3000 mg. Salt has an ionic bond so it readily separates in water. Comes from Chemistry 101.

      November 17, 2010 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
    • Sasha

      3 grams of SALT = 1200 milligrams of SODIUM
      Someone fell asleep is reading class.

      November 18, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
  2. The Dude

    Once again... this is some of the most poorly constructed writing. The first paragraph is not clear at all. CNN's credibility as a legitimate news outlet continues to fall with each and every story. Again, do you guys not have editors that review these stories?

    Note, this story was written by one of their Medical Producers.

    November 14, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JamieinMN

      And yet you continue reading CNN and complain like a dam housewife, why?????????

      November 14, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Jamie, I think you mean "damn housewife", unless dams can marry ladies.

      Well, you are commenting on the editing.

      November 14, 2010 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
  3. Kilt in SA

    This is exactly why I've switched over to the BBC.

    November 14, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daisy

      Apparently, you haven't quite completed the switch.

      November 14, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  4. sockigal

    Any chain food store has tons of salt added to the food. When you look up all the food you eat and log your salt/fat/cal/ect.. it is mind boggling! Even when you are eating the healthiest foods, you get tons of salt. I was just logging food in my journal this weekend. I went to Jason's Deli and ate a Grilled Veggie Sandwich (960mg salt), no cheese. I also ate at Chipolte and had a vegetarian burrito (1100mg salt). If I eat at home I barely consume enough salt to even make my daily quota. These chain food locations really need to cut out the salt to truly make the food healthy. I don't even know how they add so much salt. It must be infused into the food!

    November 14, 2010 at 18:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JamieinMN

      Or quit eating out so much! Eating out should be a TREAT, not a "quick dinner".

      November 14, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
    • pray

      As someone with hypertension, I try and avoid salt, and do wish they could cut back on it, but the down side to that is the same as the down side of getting rid of the bad fats in the oils which has left us with tasteless french fries and tasteless KFC Chicken. So remember, we sometimes do get what we asked for with not so fun side effects

      November 15, 2010 at 06:07 | Report abuse |
  5. KeithTexas

    This is another false report about salt. It has been going on for 45 years now and it was a lie when it came out and it is still a lie. Research money is what started it and it is probably why it is still being sold as the truth. It is BS to the millionth degree.

    If the teenagers are obese or have other medical conditions then salt can make them worse, just as in Adults. For healthy normal weight people salt is self regulating and it is not dangerous. Sea salt has many different minerals in it so it is a more complete and balanced source of salt and probably healthier.

    November 14, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charles s

      The problem is no one knows who will be badly affected by too much salt. The best solution is avoid it as much as possible. Salt is used because it is an incredibility cheap way to make almost any food taste better. Humans have a biologically bias to eat salt because until a few hundred years ago it was hard to get. Now it drenches almost all of our food. It is very hard to avoid too much salt except by preparing food from scratch.

      November 14, 2010 at 20:31 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      What do we have to do to make people like you go away? It's not false.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
  6. Damien

    Everything i read at CNN i take with a "grain of salt" as per the hyperlink leading us here

    November 14, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jonnyQuest

    You're DREAMING...People want to eat whatever they want remember. They don't want anyone telling them what, how much or when to eat especially teens. Eat now....Pay Later. That's the status quo. Insurance companies and Dr's will be happy to see them when the time comes. AND it will come.

    November 14, 2010 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. meh

    donkey dung.

    November 14, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Michelle

    I've already cut WAY back on fat and sugar. PLEASE don't take salt away from me!!

    November 14, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. vizi

    like funny news once in a while

    price we pay for having big corporations selling us cra*

    November 14, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      hard to be amused anymore...lies. how long can we get excited about lies.

      November 15, 2010 at 00:31 | Report abuse |
  11. simpson

    what the flop is that in the top left corner?! looks like and old, greasy, mac & cheese shake!

    November 14, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rebecca

      LOL!!! I do believe it is an orange soda or orange drink with ice.

      November 15, 2010 at 06:51 | Report abuse |
  12. Henry Miller

    "Reducing the amount of salt teens eat by 3 grams per day – that's about 1,200 milligrams..."

    3 grams is 3,000 milligrams, not 1,200 milligrams.

    This sort of careless mistake calls into question everything said in the whole article.

    November 14, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      If you had of read the first post, this was explained by Keith, "3 grams of SALT has about 1200 milligrams of SODIUM."

      November 14, 2010 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
  13. John

    It's not the salt (NaCL) that's bad for you it's the Sodium (Na). Switch to a non-Sodium salt substitute (e.g. KCl). It will add the same salty flavor, while being healthier for most. By adding more potassium (K) while reducing sodium in the diet, you're more likely to achieve the optimum 1:1 Na:Cl ratio, since most individuals tend towards a 2:1 or higher Na:Cl ratio.

    November 14, 2010 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      Are you convinced that more potassium is good?

      November 15, 2010 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
  14. John

    My bad – – meant to say optimum Na:K ratio is 1:1.

    November 14, 2010 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • G


      Also, NaCl, not ~CL!

      November 14, 2010 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
  15. Vinnie

    Well this article is interesting but is salt the new sugar?

    Are we going to have artificial salt? Alternatives for salt other then sea salt now?

    November 14, 2010 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. david

    the title of this article on the front page of cnn is 'teens, take this with a grain of salt'.

    this is stupid.

    1) because it's stupid.
    2) because the expression means to approach something with skepticism
    3) because even taken literally, it would be contrary to the whole point of the article.


    November 14, 2010 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Bad Patient

    High blood pressure comes from grains (try eliminating all grain ~especially corn...corn syrup, corn sweeteners, corn oil, any other words that imply corn derivatives for three days and see if your condition improves) for me. I need salt to get rid of the extra fluid that I retain when I eat grain...i suspect that's what raises my blood pressure...the extra fluid. I listened to the American Heart Association and lowered salt and did all of the things they said to do. I'm convinced they are a front company to make people have heart attacks earlier from the information they give to people. I met a researcher that worked on salt many years ago at a major big ten university in the midwest...and i gotta tell ya...that guy had issues. I wouldn't trust much from that guy. His project was salt and it's affect on blood pressure. Knowing what I know now, I'd be questioning that information again. I believe they looked at salt by itself and not in conjunction with all of the sugar we eat in the American diet. If grain makes you retain fluid, salt helps you get rid of the excess (either too much or not enough...so there's still a balance there). But to say that salt is bad...isn't quite right. I tend to need salt.

    November 14, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      oh...i forgot. some people think that table salt is the bad one. but not the one with minerals and such. they both work in a pinch for me. the himalayan salt label says that it makes you more alkaline. that's interesting. given that we eat as much sugar (makes you acidic) as we do. it would be interesting to know if that has any effect on our ability to fight diseases to run through the pH system like that. it might wipe out more diseases to cover a spectrum. thinking...

      November 15, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse |
  18. Bad Patient

    there's no food in the picture you are showing. it's all corn. it would make anyone blow up. grain makes people sick. you need salt to drop the fluid from the inflamation that you get from corn. (it's still a too much or too little type of thing, but you can control it fairly easily)

    November 14, 2010 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bad Patient

    This stuff is just more lies. Pumping out lies, half truths...but all things that benefit the medical profession when people get sick. it's wrong. stop it.

    November 14, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Bad Patient

    Inflammation from corn is where i would put my money...if it was my job to find out why people have high blood pressure, i'd be looking there first. grains seconds. but then i would zero in on genetically modified food and watch the inflammation levels.

    November 14, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      Inflammation makes you retain fluids. (raises blood pressure) but there might be something inherently in grain that eating it makes you retain fluid also (not salt, but sugar? seems to take salt to get rid of it). that's where i'd be looking. but i don't think they really want to know. they wouldn't be able to sell all of those drugs and get all of the patient visits that they get now if they solved this one. ever notice how they study around anything that would actually make sense in these studies?

      November 14, 2010 at 23:55 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      I'd be looking at cry9c for one. perhaps others.


      November 15, 2010 at 00:06 | Report abuse |
    • Bad Patient

      I would want to know where that inflammation is coming from. (But i wouldn't get rid of the salt because that's usually how i get rid of the extra fluid...like i said...it's a too much or not enough type of thing. so, it's a balance, but works for me. don't take the salt away...unless you know how to eliminate the inflammation. i think it's in the grain. perhaps more specifically the corn. but more research is needed in this area.)

      November 15, 2010 at 00:21 | Report abuse |
  21. PenguinMan

    This report is worth it's weight in salt. It probably weighs about a 1/2 a pound and salt is running about $1 a pound

    November 15, 2010 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Bad Patient

    Try eliminating corn in their diet and see if that doesn't prevent a world of problems.

    November 15, 2010 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Bad Patient

    Shouldn't the amount of sodium you eat in a day have something to do with how much sugar you are eating in a day? or something to do with the amount of inflammation you are getting from other foods? (allergic reactions to corn for example)

    November 15, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bad Patient

      just eating grain may have some fluid retention properties to it also. so...you would have to figure those out separately. how much is from grain because it's grain? and how much is from inflammation? i would chase those down. if i had a lab. and people that want to know. but, in the meantime...just don't eat grain and stay away from corn (that's hard) and see if it gets better. and keep a little salt around if you feel puffy. then sprinkle a little bit on your hand and lick it and see if you lose fluid in a couple of minutes. it works. blood pressure of a kid.

      November 15, 2010 at 00:38 | Report abuse |
  24. devinomar

    This is sweet!!! major brands give out samples of their popular health products best place is "123 Get Samples" tell your friends too.

    November 15, 2010 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Joe, San Diego

    Ooo I'm horny all this yip yapping about spilled milk... suddenly you cretins are so perfect... criticizing, as your checks bounce, with your huge credit card debt and bratty children earn C's and D's, when was the last time you spoke to your parents or brother and sister, suddenly you all have red pens...

    November 15, 2010 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. coolman

    sweet im ahead of the game. Im in college i eat really well save for sugar. its hard with all the processed foods they serve at college but im doing my best. I see these other students smoke and eat just fried chicken and nothing else but coke for lunch and dinner. no wonder everyone is fat and dropping like flies

    November 15, 2010 at 02:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Karen

    The consumption of salt isn’t the main cause of high blood pressure. There has been a lot of research on this subject. The most reliable result is that if we cut our salt intake by half, the blood pressure declines somewhere between 2 mm Hg and 5 mm Hg. But when we talk about high blood pressure, we mean an overpressure of 25 or 40 mm Hg or even more. Conclusion? Salt intake can’t be the main cause. The real cause is the abundance of carbohydrates. How high blood pressure comes into existence, you can read here http://bit.ly/9YwD9j

    November 15, 2010 at 03:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. fazil

    Are you sure that more potassium is good?...... for Health Care Service Provider @ http://www.informaticsoutsourcing.com

    November 15, 2010 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Kristy

    I'm just unsure if doing this will help, some children only get one meal a day and in that case it should have some fat with it and not a huge amount of salt but some,besides they are going to go home and the ones whop can will eat whatever they want as my sister does,but its all about parents being a part of there children's lives, and being like okay you want that ice cream or that burger that's fine but you know to go outside and play or if your a teen like my sister go outside and run and be healthy since your gonna eat that burger now how about a nice chicken salad for dinner, i want you to be healthy, your kids will listen to you if you just open your mouth and speak.

    November 15, 2010 at 05:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Daryl

    This is ABOSLUTELY false and it doesn't surprise me that it made its way to the headlines. The predisposition for hypertension is entirely genetic. In such persons, salt can exacerbate the condition but salt absolutely does not cause or lead to hypertension in persons not susceptible. That study is being driven by insurance carriers who are pushing hard for a healthier America because they have to pay out less premiums, equating with higher margins on profit. They can't state the real truth, but rather try and make you believe that everyone who eats salt as a teen will develop hypertension, leading to strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, blah blah blah. It's corporate massage hard at work on the American people. Trash it.

    November 15, 2010 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mike

    When I was younger, maybe 20 or so, I went to the doctor to get a check up and had high blood pressure. I told her I have had high blood pressure pretty much my whole life. She immediately started listing off medications (plural) I would need and scheduled a couple tests to take. Luckily for me, I had just been brought over to sanity regarding the health system in this country, and wanted to avoid medications if at all possible. I asked her if there were any "natural" things I could do to lower my blood pressure. She literally, literally put the pencil down mid prescription and said, "Oh, well high blood pressure is 99 percent a mineral imbalance, so cut out sodium and try a daily supplement for other things." My blood pressure was normal at my next checkup for the first time in my life.

    I wonder how many thousands of dollars per month I could have cost our country if I didn't ask that one simple question. Several tests and lifelong medication rather than limiting salt. Incredible.

    November 15, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Elizardbeth Crowin Big Dog Medical gossip spreader

    **********************************BREAKING NEWS******************************************************
    *****************************************************************SALT KILLS TEENS*********************************************8
    *************MORE TO COME LATER****************************************************************

    November 15, 2010 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. tired of it all

    I have been cutting out salt for several years and besides making me feel healthier, I realized that by doing so, after the 1st 6 months, I could play the harmonica............have never been able to play the harmonica or even had a desire to play it but now I can.............just saying.......

    November 15, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sasha

      Lol random

      November 18, 2010 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
  34. Heyyyy

    BUT I LIKE SALT AND IM 13!!!!!

    November 17, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Grandma

      You can like salt. You need some salt for a healthy diet. They are telling you to cut back on your salt intake. Otherwise you will end up with health problems at a young age.

      November 18, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
  35. americains are so fat

    dude it is expected of americains to be so fat in the world even the starving kids wouldnt want to be like that.

    November 18, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sodium Guru

    Kieth is correct. Salt weighs 6 grams per teaspoon. In that six grams there are 2,350 mg of sodium. Cutting salt out is easy at home. Bread can be made without it, all meals can be prepared without it, etc. Eating out is where the danger is. Fast food and some chains like Applebee's, etc simply cannot cut salt out. In the west a burger chain known as In-N-Out will cut salt out of the burger and fries. There are support Web sites on the Net like Megaheart.com and others that provide all the data most people need.

    November 19, 2010 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Cole

    I'll be blunt – This is BS.

    Let's be very clear: There is no scientific fact or even a consensus that lowering your salt intake is good for your health. It is an (overly) cautious assumption that salt is bad for us. Like a lot of things (the bankruptcy of Dow Corning due to the silicone scare is the first that comes to mind), this is based on guesses, loose connections and fears.

    As with all things, look for what real experts and facts have to say. A decade or so ago ('98), the JAMA (as in one of the most prestigious publications around) did an analysis of over a hundred studies on salt and their conclusion was that there wasn't enough evidence to support a general, lower salt intake. This was followed by others that more or less in future articles/studies; this has not changed in recent years.

    Look at the wordings in this article and from the researchers themselves. The key word here is, "could." As in, "I could go outside in the middle of nowhere and be run over by a car." The other key is "computer model." Well, if biology in theory/model was so great, we wouldn't need years of clinical trials. But, we need the trials, because nature is diverse and unpredictable. Using a computer model, and without looking at it I already know that there's no way that they input all the sodium related functions in the human body, filled with assumptions is ridiculous.

    If you have a certain condition, there are things you have to avoid. An ironic one is how those on blood thinners have to avoid eating a lot of broccoli and kale (widely and justly considered to be super foods), because they're extremely high in vitamin K, the vitamin that plays a big role in blood clotting. Likewise, if you already have high blood pressure, reducing your salt intake MAY help you; even that's a maybe, since studies say it will only help about a third.

    For most of us, salt is fine. And, lowering your intake is likely to do more harm than good, since it's something that you need in rather high quantities to, you know, live. How can I be so sure of all this? Because our bodies are pretty damn good at controlling high quantities of stuff. Too much salt in your diet? Well, thank your kidneys for balancing it all out. (Kidney problems are another matter.)

    To sum it up:
    – Computer models do not make for a good biological "study."
    – That lowering salt intake is good is NOT proven/accepted science.
    – Your kidney is good. Be kind to it.
    – It's different if you have a preexisting condition.

    November 19, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. razzlea

    I think that these meals that are being served to kids and teenagers at the fast food restaurants should be reevaluated. If you need any information about health and fitness check out my blog. http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    November 19, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. res998

    Nonsense. "Computer model" is not data.

    Where is the solid evidence that salt ALONE is responsible for these health effects? It's not there. Lowering salt intake is ALWAYS confounded with amount of food (total calories) and type of food.

    November 21, 2010 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. la flaka

    pa mi todo es bien difficil de entendel polque se me hizo que esta baina fue super inderecto asi que hmm

    November 22, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. prachin ranavat

    hypertension is also caused by people who work in programming. that is why i prefer my job as manager.prachin ranavat

    November 22, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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