By ALICE PARK
Eating too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure in adults. Is a salty diet as dangerous for kids?
In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that young children are consuming as much salt as adults, putting them at a similarly increased risk of developing hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and early death. The high blood pressure risk may greatest among the 37% of American kids who are considered either overweight or obese, the study found.
The scientists reviewed diet and blood pressure data on 6,235 children aged 8 to 18 years who participated in the large government-funded National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2008. The children came to mobile sites where trained researchers asked them detailed questions about what they had eaten in the previous 24 hours. The children also had their blood pressure measured three separate times to ensure consistent readings.
On average, the participants ate about 3,387 mg of sodium a day — about the same as adults. (Current dietary guidelines recommend that children and adults consume no more than 2,300 mg a day.) Older children tended to consume more salt than younger children. And the more salt the children ate, the higher their blood pressure readings were. Children with the highest sodium intake were twice as likely to have pre-hypertension or hypertension than those who consumed the least salt. Further, children who consumed the most salt and were also overweight or obese had more than three times the risk of high blood pressure, compared with the lowest salt consumption group.