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Salt in Kids’ Diets Linked to High Blood Pressure

By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 17, 2012 -- Eating a diet that's high in sodium has been linked in numerous studies to higher blood pressure in adults. Now, new research from the CDC suggests the same link in children and teens.

The investigation found that the more sodium children and teenagers ate, the higher their risk for developing high blood pressure, especially if they were overweight or obese.

Average sodium intake among the children and teens was as high as that of adults. Most sodium is found in processed or packaged foods and restaurant food, not from salt.

CDC nutritional epidemiologist Elena V. Kuklina, MD, who co-authored the study, says high blood pressure is increasingly common among children in the U.S., and high sodium in the diet may be a major contributor.

The average daily intake of sodium among the children and teens in the study was 3,400 mg, the equivalent of just under 2 teaspoons of salt.

That is more than double the daily maximum of 1,500 mg of sodium that the American Heart Association has set as a goal for children and adults.

“We clearly need to reduce sodium intake at the population level,” Kuklina says. “We can do this by eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.”

Kids, Salt, and Blood Pressure

But in a written statement, Morton Satin, who is vice present of science and research for the salt industry trade group the Salt Institute, calls the research "pseudo-science."

The study included 6,235 children and teens who were participants in a larger health study. As part of the study, they were asked to recall all the foods they ate over a 24-hour period.

Just over a third (37%) were overweight or obese, and 15% had either high blood pressure or blood pressure that was above normal but not yet at the level of high blood pressure.

Among kids and teens who were overweight or obese, every 1,000-mg increase in sodium intake per day nearly doubled their risk for high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure.

Overweight and obese kids and teens who ate the most sodium were 3.5 times as likely to have high blood pressure as overweight and obese kids and teens who ate the least sodium.

Having high blood pressure as a child means a person is more likely to have the same as an adult, which can increase risk for heart disease and stroke.

Salt Bigger Problem for Overweight Kids

Pediatric cardiologist Stephen R. Daniels, MD, PhD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says the finding that overweight kids may be the most at risk has public health implications.

Daniels, who is a spokesman for the American Heart Association, says he is seeing more and more kids with high blood pressure in his practice.

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