ATLANTA—U.S. children and teens are consuming an average of 3,387 milligrams a day of sodium—nearly the same amount consumed by adults and significantly higher than the less than 2,300 mg per day for the average person suggested by the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the risk for high blood pressure among overweight and obese youths rose 74% for every 1,000 milligrams of increased sodium intake per day. That compared to only a 6% increase among normal-weight young people. The researchers suggest that interventions to reduce sodium intake and increase physical activity may help reduce the prevalence of elevated and high blood pressure in children and adolescents.
For the study, CDC researchers examined data from 6,235 U.S. students between the ages of 8 and 18 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003-2008 that had collected information about their daily salt intake. They found children consume, on average 3,387 milligrams or more of sodium per day. The also study showed 37% of the respondents were either overweight or obese, and 15% had elevated or high blood pressure.
Calculations from 24-hour dietary recall showed that usual sodium intake rose with age and other characteristics for a wide range from 1,334 to as much as 8,177 mg per day. Sodium consumption was higher among boys than girls.
The researchers noted reducing the sodium intake of U.S. children remains difficult, in part because 75% of sodium in the average American diet comes from packaged, processed or restaurant food. Nevertheless, people can control their sodium intake and manage their weight by controlling portion sizes, not skipping meals, minimizing consumption of processed foods, paying
attention to energy and sodium data on food labels, and not adding salt to foods. Other research results have shown that school- and community-based interventions can contribute to healthier dietary choices and increased levels of physical activity among school-aged children.
Using salt in food preparation is a necessary evil, and just how much is OK will continue to be a hot topic for years to come. Be sure to read “Flavorful Approaches to Slashing Sodium" on Food Product Design to learn how product and menu developers are taking the necessary steps to cut overall sodium levels in our food system over time.
Still hungry for more information? Learn more about using salt and sodium reduction in food product development in the Food Product Design Salt/Sodium Reduction Content Library.