MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Like
most adults in the United States, many American children are getting too
much salt in their diets, a new study says.
And, as in adults, that extra sodium might be
increasing their blood pressure levels, particularly in children above
"Sodium intake is positively associated with
systolic blood pressure and risk for pre-high blood pressure and high
blood pressure among U.S. children and adolescents, and this association
may be strong among those who are overweight or obese," wrote
researcher Quanhe Yang and colleagues at the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a
blood-pressure readout and it represents the force with which blood
comes out of the heart to the rest of the body.
Not everyone, however, is convinced that sodium is the only factor raising children's blood pressure.
"This study looked at one nutrient in
isolation. There was no emphasis on the quality of the diet," said
pediatric dietitian Lauren Graf, of the Children's Hospital at
Montefiore in New York City. "A high intake of sodium may be a marker
that there are other areas of the diet that aren't so healthy, and it
may suggest low intake of other nutrients that lower blood pressure,
like calcium, magnesium and potassium."
Results of the study are published in the Sept. 17 issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The latest government dietary guidelines
recommend that most Americans not consume more than 2,300 milligrams of
sodium daily, although most people would be fine with significantly less
sodium. In general, the minimum amount of sodium recommended for most
Americans is 1,500 mg daily, according to the guidelines.
Most Americans, however, get well above the
recommended limit of sodium each day. High sodium intake and being
overweight or obese are known factors that contribute to high blood
pressure, according to background information in the study.
The current study included data from a
nationally representative sample of U.S. children from 2003 to 2008. The
study included more than 6,200 children between the ages of 8 and 18.
All the children provided information on
their diet during the previous 24 hours when they began the study, and
91 percent gave information on their diets for a second day in a
Researchers found that the average child and
teen consumed nearly 3,400 mg of sodium daily. Sodium intake increased
with age, and males consumed more on average than females. Sodium
consumption was higher in non-Hispanic whites than in other races.
Normal-weight kids ate the most salt,
followed by obese and then overweight kids. The prevalence of overweight
and obesity in the study was 37 percent.
Children and teens with higher sodium levels
had higher rates of pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure. The
study found that when comparing those with the highest sodium
consumption to the lowest, those with the highest had twice the odds of
having elevated blood pressure. In overweight and obese children and
teens, those with the highest rates had 3.5 times the risk of having
pre-high blood pressure or high blood pressure.
As sodium levels increased, so too did blood
pressure levels. In overweight and obese children, for example, the
lowest sodium group had an average systolic blood pressure of 106.2 mm
Hg, while the next group up had 108.8 mm Hg.
As sodium levels increased again, the third
group had systolic levels that averaged 109 mm Hg, while the highest
consumption group had average systolic levels of 112.8 mm Hg, according
to the study.
"It was interesting that for kids who are of
normal weight, the sodium intake didn't have as big an impact on blood
pressure as it did for children who were overweight and obese," said Dr.
Michael Moritz, clinical director of pediatric nephrology at the
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "We know that being overweight
predisposes you to high blood pressure and sodium can also increase the
risk of high blood pressure, but the question is, What happens when they
occur in relationship to each other?"
Moritz said it's not yet clear what impact,
if any, these slight elevations in blood pressure will have on
children's future health.
Graf said it isn't healthy for anyone to
consume high levels of sodium in the long-term, and she advises parents
to be aware of the amount of sodium in their child's diet but not to
focus on it.
Graf recommended staying away from processed
foods as much as possible, because they contain a lot of sodium. A
surprising source of sodium is bread and bread products, such as bagels.
One large plain bagel can contain 700 mg of sodium, Graf said.
She recommended giving your kids more fruits
and vegetables and whole-grain foods that haven't been overly processed.
"The more you buy fresh foods, the less you have to focus on counting
sodium milligrams," she said.
Although the study found an association
between salt consumption and higher blood pressure in children, it did
not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Tom Crawford is a member of the Meteorological Society. He has been awarded the Seal of Approval from the American Meteorological Society and has been recognized as SC's Best Weathercaster by the AP.More >>
Tom Crawford is a member of the Meteorological Society. Tom has been awarded the Seal of Approval from the American Meteorological Society and has been recognized as South Carolina's Best Weathercaster by the Associated Press.More >>