American kids eat as much salt as adults, CDC says

Published: Monday, Sept. 17 2012 12:04 p.m. MDT

This photo illustration shows a salt shaker in a plate with a sandwich and potato chips in Miami on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 18 are eating 3,387 mg per day, on average, according to a new study conducted by Disease Control and Prevention.

Wilfredo Lee, J Pat Carter, Associated Press

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American children ages of 8 to 18 are eating on average 3,387 mg of salt per day, roughly the same amount as adults, but more than the 2,300-mg daily limit set by federal dietary guidelines, according to a new study conducted by Disease Control and Prevention.

"We found that higher sodium intake was associated with higher blood pressure," Janelle Gunn, a public health analyst with the CDC, told NPR.

Researchers examined 6,235 children, ages 8 to 18 years, who gave detailed reports about what they're eating. Blood pressure and weight were also measured. Nearly 15 percent of the children in the study had either elevated or high blood pressure.

So how is all this sodium being consumed? "Experts say it's not so much an overuse of the salt shaker as it is consumption of processed foods," NPR reported. "Lots of sodium slips into our diets without us realizing it — even in bread. As we've reported, babies may be getting too much, too."

Those who ate the most salt faced double the risk of having elevated blood pressure compared to their healthier peers, Fox News reported. But among overweight or obese kids, the risk was more than triple.

"The findings add to an already worrisome picture of the cardiovascular health of U.S. children," the Wall Street Journal reported. "That group has a higher prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Another recent CDC study showed that cholesterol levels in U.S. children and teens dropped over the past two decades, but they still remain abnormally high."

The recommended daily intake of salt or sodium for kids and adults is no more than 1 teaspoon daily, or about 2,300 milligrams.

“If we reduce salt intake beginning in childhood, the effect is going to track through society, and probably translate to a significant change in overall blood pressure both now and in the future,” the study’s lead author Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist in the division of heart disease and stroke prevention at the CDC, told Time Magazine.

The study will be published in the journal Pediatrics.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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