News article

Three in four children are at risk from eating too much salt

Posted:  Friday, March 14, 2014

More than half our salt intake comes the food we binge on a regular day. The major contributors are bread, pizza, chicken soup, cheese, pasta, meat dishes such as meat loaf, and snack foods such as potato chips (including canned tomato sauce), and butter popcorn, which you find at the movie halls. Children enjoy snacking on junk food contributing to their excess salt intake.

The study published in the American Heart Association Journal Hypertension stated that due to the consumption of processes food such as bread and cereals there is too much salt intake and UK health authorities need to influence food manufactures to reduce the amount of salt in their products.

Researchers documented the salt intake of 340 South London children between the ages of 5-17. The participants were divided into three groups based on their ages, 5-6years, 8 to 9 years and 13-17 years.

Researchers noted on the basis of a food diary kept by the participants or their parents that, 5-6 years consumed 3.75 g salt daily, 8-9 years consumed 4.72g and 13-17 years old 7.55g. However, these readings were higher than the recommended daily salt intake for children.

According to London researchers the guidelines for children’s daily intake were not based on reliable data. Thus, proposed different maximum daily amounts of 2 grams for 3 to 4 year old children; 3 grams for 5 to 8 year olds; 4 grams for 9 to 11 year olds; 5 grams for 12 to 15 year old children; 6 grams for children aged 16 years and over.

At the end of the study the researchers found that 60% of the 5 to 6 year olds had salt intake above the daily recommendations. But, by the ages of 8 to 9 the intake rose by 73%.

These reading indicate that, children are consuming too much salt and this has an adverse effect on their health. Products such as, cereals and bread contribute to 36% of the salt intake. Whereas, meat, including chicken, bacon and turkey dishes, contributed to 19% of the salt intake, while milk and milk products, accounted for 11%.

Salt effects children on many different level and salt and children’s health are directly linked. Excessive salt intake causes high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Children who are predisposed to a salty diet are more likely to develop diseases such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and respiratory illnesses. Furthermore, salty foods influence their eating patterns later in life and it is recommended that, children should be not exposed to a diet rich in salt.

Dr Graham MacGregor, who is professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, adds: "We know that salt starts increasing the risk of high blood pressure in children starting at age one. There needs to be a much greater effort to reduce salt in foods."