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Children's health

Processed Salt Consumption Linked to High Blood Pressure in Children

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: children's health, processed salt, salt consumption

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(NewsTarget) Like adults, children with a high salt intake are at an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a British study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension. Researchers examined the blood pressure measurements and salt intake for 1,658 children between the ages of 4 and 18. Salt intake was estimated by means of a 7-day dietary record, generating a weekly average salt intake. According to the researchers, this provides a more accurate estimate of salt intake than data from only a day or two.

The average salt intake among 4-year-olds was 4.7 grams per day. Salt intake increased steadily with age, reaching 6.8 grams per day by the age of 18. Because the researchers did not count salt added during or after cooking, the actual intake was higher.

The United Kingdom's recommended salt intake for an individual adult is 4 grams per day (corresponding to 1.6 grams of sodium), while the more pragmatic goal for the population is an average of 6 grams per day. U.S. recommendations are similar.

For children, the United Kingdom's population goals are 3 grams per day for 4-6 year olds and 5 grams for 7-10 year olds.

In the current study, the researchers found that every extra gram of salt intake corresponded to a 0.4 mmHG increase in peak arterial blood pressure.

"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, " said Malcom Law, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

In the United Kingdom, like the United States, the majority of people's salt intake comes from processed foods.

"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," said nutritionist Jo Butten.

But consumer health advocate Mike Adams cautioned people to make a distinction between processed salt and full-spectrum sea salt. "Processed salt is dangerous to human health, but full-spectrum salt like Celtic sea salt is actually quite healthy, even in relatively large amounts," Adams said. "Unprocessed, brown sea salt contains dozens of minerals and elements simply not present in processed salt."
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