Too much salt spells health trouble for kids too
Too much sodium can lead to elevated or high blood pressure in kids, which can persist into adulthood, researchers say.
September 17th, 2012
12:05 AM ET

Too much salt spells health trouble for kids too

Children are eating as much salt as adults, according to a new report, and experts are concerned.

Most adults consume too much sodium and that can have serious health implications. Too much salt in a person's diet can raise your blood pressure; high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.

In this new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that if a child is overweight and eats as much salt as an adult, the risk for high blood pressure goes up dramatically.
The study

Health experts recommend that most people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day, the equivalent of 1 teaspoon. But children and adults alike are consuming, on average, about 3,400 milligrams daily, according to the study.

The study authors found that when young people increased their daily salt levels by 1,000 milligrams, the risk for high blood pressure increased 74% for overweight or obese youngsters, but only 6% for kids in the normal weight range. The researchers looked at more than 6,200 young people, ages 8 to 18. More than a third were overweight or obese and 15% had elevated or high blood pressure.

Most of the salt we consume is already in the foods we eat, not what we add at the dinner table.

Breads and rolls, cold cuts, pizza, fresh and processed poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks are the top 10 food sources that account for 44% of sodium consumed, according a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February.

"If you have high blood pressure in childhood, it's likely that the effects will last into adulthood. Increased blood pressure is one of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease (heart disease)," explains lead study author Quanhe Yang, who works with the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The secret is in the anatomy

So why do heavier children appear to be at higher risk for hypertension or high blood pressure? Scientists can't explain it fully, but they've found that overweight kids tend to be more sensitive to salt's effect on the body.

Let's take a quick look at our anatomy to get a better picture. When we eat more salt, we retain more water. Part of the water ends up in our blood stream, increasing the volume of blood and causing the heart to pump harder to move the extra blood. Blood pressure increases as a result.

Over time, the increase in pressure causes wear and tear on the walls of our blood vessels, making it easier for fat-like substances to build up and narrow the vessel. The accumulation of those substances may lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Takeaway for parents

Parents can reduce their child's chances of developing high blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged, processed or restaurant food. But no matter the source, we need to cut back. Start at the grocery store. Salt is hidden in many foods, so scrutinizing food labels is essential. Low sodium options are often available.

"At a restaurant, ask if they can provide the nutrition content of the food or if they can not add sodium to the meal," Yang says.

He adds that it's important for overweight children to try to get down to a normal weight, exercise, and to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. DavidE7

    It can't be said often enough. Some people can eat all the salt they want because their bodies are good at keeping a proper sodium balance. Other are vulnerable to dietary salt, because their bodies are slow to excrete excess salt. The trick is to know which group you are in. If you are a normal American on a relatively high salt diet, your blood presssure will tell you.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sheila

      to all that this may concern! hello!i found out that alot was wrong with my health and sence i went on a very very low sodium diet i havent been to the doctor for anything in over a year and sergeries on my bladder of removing palips every year i havent had to for 3 years now. i have lost alot of wieight from a size 12 down to a 4 in about 4 months eating as much healthy foods as always without sodium or very low sodium, and i am more engetic and move about really well now and i golf and play tennis. i feel good ! But i thank God that He showed me what to do for me. Do a study on sodium and see the harm it causes i was shocked to know that our country is putting enough in our foods to kill the american army slowly so no one even knows , I pray that they are doing this out of being egnorent and not on perpose

      September 17, 2012 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
  2. SodiumVulnerable

    I am in the sodium vulnerable group and didnt know it til i was 41. My bp was running high with no apparrent reason and was put off as genetic predisposition. I took bp meds for 3 years and than finally began questioning why. I researched on my own and came across a sodium study which stated basically what David said. I lowered my sodium drastically reading every label and stayed away from every product over 7%. I have been off of bp meds for 4 years now with consistent readings of 118\79. Its so sad we have children with hypertension these days..

    September 17, 2012 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sheila

      for sure!!! it is the truth. i know what you are talking about, Im glad to hear that you are doing well now!

      September 17, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
  3. soulcatcher

    I think a related problem to this is lack of excercise/physical activity. I know of construction workers that eat thousands of calories and several grams of salt per day above the recommended, and they don't have high blood pressure.

    Another: what do you do to clean up a popcorn oil spill: salt It turns the oil into a sweepable powder at room temp. Probably high triglycerides and salt probably don't mix.

    Your cells need cholesterol for cell membranes. Salt overintake probably harms this in humans.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Annie

    Is it a sea salt or sodium filled with chemicals? It is a big difference between the two. I love salt, I use sea salt like no one else and I have low bp. I eat more than an average American, but I eat whole, natural foods and I have healthy weight. I truly believe it is what we put in our bodies.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      Sodium is sodium (NaCl). Sea Salt has other minerals in it that offset the sodium content when looking at equal amounts. Also it sounds like you probably don't get as much sodium from the rest of your diet as the average person. Good for you.

      September 17, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
    • katherine

      Other than iodine (which is added as a nutrient to ensure people get enough) regular salt does not have any added chemicals.

      September 17, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • sheila

      a friend of mine told me to try sea salt! well i cant find any that doesnt have the three man made ingredients in it to make it sodium, the pur salt isnt a killer alone. if not over taken of it of course. maybe those that are eating all of those amounts of sodium and working may not be fat!!!! but what do their insides look like????? will they die from heart desease gull bladder serger canser. liver shutting down, thin blood, salt causes a enflamation inside your body and that also causes other things to be wrong with your body. all i can say Lord help us ! americans! other countries dont have high salts in there foods(sodium) and they are mostly slim and walk and feel like walking.

      September 17, 2012 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    I am 41 years old and my blood pressure has always been very low. However, I love salt and eat a ton of it. I always hear all of these warnings about reducing salt intake and I wish they would explain more often that eating a lot of salt is not a health issue for everyone. I wish they would stop issuing blanket statements.

    September 17, 2012 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MashaSobaka

      I think they prefer to focus on the people who are having problems. Maybe you should remind yourself that not everything everyone says pertains to you directly.

      September 17, 2012 at 21:09 | Report abuse |
  6. sheila

    Just do a study on sodium not salt intake sodium intake it is different . have a great day

    September 17, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. c s

    Maybe salt has an affect upon obese children is because they are already starting to have vascular problems. During the Korean war, it was discovered during autopsies of young soldiers (early twenties) were already suffering from vascular problems. So it would not be surprising that obese children would have more problems with salt.

    September 17, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. MashaSobaka

    The only surefire way to cut salt/sodium from your diet is to prepare your own food. Preprepared food, whether that processed crap they sell in the frozen food aisle or the food that shows up in restaurants and fast food shacks, is loaded with more sodium than anyone ever needs. Make it yourself and you have as much control as possible.

    September 17, 2012 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mark Russell

    There is zero evidence that a high salt intake causes high blood pressure. If one already has high blood pressure, a high salt intake can make it worse. If you're going to write an article about some scientific fact, get it right.

    September 17, 2012 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • c s

      Zero evidence? Ok, here is a paper "Sodium intake and hypertension." which states
      "n current diets, the level of sodium is very high, whereas that of potassium, calcium, and magnesium is low compared with the level in diets composed of unprocessed, natural foods. We present the biologic rationale and scientific evidence that show that the current salt intake levels largely explain the high prevalence of hypertension. Comprehensive reduction of salt intake, both alone and particularly in combination with increases in intakes of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, is able to lower average blood pressure levels substantially. During the past 30 years, the one-third decrease in the average salt intake has been accompanied by a more than 10-mm Hg fall in the population average of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and a 75% to 80% decrease in both stroke and coronary heart disease mortality in Finland. There is no evidence of any harmful effects of salt reduction. Salt-reduction recommendations alone have a very small, if any, population impact. In the United States, for example, the per capita use of salt increased by approximately 55% from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. We deal with factors that contribute toward increasing salt intakes and present examples of the methods that have contributed to the successful salt reduction in Finland." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17046432

      Do a google search of "nlm.gov salt hypertension" and you will find many more.

      September 17, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
    • Unrefined

      Mark, I agree. And isn't wonderful that the conventional concensus is that it's the SALT that is making our kids sick, and not the industrialized processed imitation food that the said refined salt is in? This is American medicine at it's finest.

      September 18, 2012 at 09:25 | Report abuse |
  10. mre2

    1. Moderation – eat lots of different wholesome foods, fatty and sugary stuff in very small amounts., make choices with your brains not your feelings (use common sense).

    2. Hydration – few consume as much plain water as they should. Lack of proper hydration has a profound effect on many health issues, and leads to overeating (leads to a sense of hunger).

    September 18, 2012 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. billy

    "So why do heavier children appear to be at higher risk for hypertension or high blood pressure? "

    I think it's because they are fat.

    September 18, 2012 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Wealter Newmanner

    Don't most children have breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner at school? So, if they are fat and have too much salt in their diets, isn't it a school problem?

    September 18, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Robyn

    This is such a powerful finding considering many children eat like their parents. If mom and dad stop at a fast food restaurant for dinner, then the kids eat fast food, too. Many children have limited choice in where their meals come from, and unfortunately this can have life-long effects. Hopefully we will see a change in this country soon!

    September 18, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Tanasia Walker

    where does this happen at ? what city and state ?

    September 19, 2012 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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