Salt linked to higher blood pressure in kids

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt intake, Blood pressure

Children and adolescents consuming higher levels of salt in their
diets have higher blood pressure, confirms a UK study published
today.

The new study, based on data collected in the 1997 National Diet and Nutrition Survey for young people in Great Britain (NDNS), will add further urgency to food industry efforts to reduce the salt content of their products. "Currently, salt intake in young people is unnecessarily highdue, in most countries, to hidden salt added to food by the food industry,"​ wrote the authors in The Journal of Human Hypertension. ​The researchers examined the salt intake and blood pressure of 1,658 children aged between 4 and 18, with salt intake assessed by a seven-day dietary record. The average salt intake, which did not include salt added in cooking or at the table, was 4.7g/day at the age of 4 years. With increasing age, there was an increase in salt intake, and by the age of 18 years, salt intake was 6.8g/day. The findings revealed that for each extra 1g of salt eaten by the participants, there was a related 0.4mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure. "This is an important finding which confirms that eating more salt increases blood pressure in childhood and also adds extra weight to the current public health campaign to reduce salt in the UK diet,"​ said Professor Malcolm Law, professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. "The differences in systolic blood pressure between children with higher and lower salt diets may appear small, but making reductions of this order in childhood is likely to translate into lower levels of blood pressure in adult life, with reduced risk of developing heart disease and stroke and potentially huge gains in public health being possible." ​Although increased blood pressure is uncommon in children, blood pressure follows a tracking pattern, which means that individuals who have a higher blood pressure in early life are more likely to develop high blood pressure when they grow older. High blood pressure (hypertension) - a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease - has been repeatedly linked to an increased salt intake, spurring global campaigns to reduce the sodium levels in processed foods. In the UK, Ireland and the USA, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, with 20 per cent of salt intake coming from meat and meat products, and about 35 per cent from cereal and cereal products. The new findings, which are consistent with the findings from a recent meta-analysis of controlled salt reduction trials in children and adolescents, suggest that anything that lowers blood pressure in children is likely to reduce the number of people developing high blood pressure in later life. "The message for parents is to check labels, especially on foods such as breakfast cereals and snack products, which they may not expect to contain high levels of salt, and choose the lower salt options. 1.5g of salt may not sound much, but parents need to know that it is half a six year-old's maximum recommended upper limit of salt for a whole day (3g) and 30 per cent of a ten year-old's (5g),"​ said Jo Butten, nutritionist for Consensus Action on Salt and Health. According to the researchers, the strengths of their study are that the data were from a large nationally representative sample of British young people, and that salt intake was estimated from a 7-day dietary record, which could characterize individuals' usual intake more accurately than a dietary record taken over 1-2 days. Limitations include that the NDNS is a cross-sectional study, and no cause-effect relationship can be drawn from such a study. In addition, the salt intake estimated from the NDNS underestimated the actual amount of salt consumed by children as it did not include salt added in cooking or at the table. Source: The Journal of Hypertension​ September 2007 "Salt and blood pressure in children and adolescents" ​Authors: FJ He, NM Marrero and GA MacGregor

Related topics: Science, Preservatives and acidulants

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