Teenagers to reduce salt intake

For many teens, fast food, pizza, and cereal are food groups in and of themselves. There are many problems with a processed food heavy diet, but high salt intake is of particular concern – potentially leading to adulthood high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, teenagers consume more salt than any other age group, eating an average of 9 grams more each day. In a recent study, the researchers used computer modeling analysis to project the possible health effects of a 3-gram reduction of dietary salt (from 9 grams to 6 grams), and found that it could enable a 44% to 63% decrease in the amount of hypertensive teenagers and young adults. The percentage of adult hypertensives aged 35 to 50 was estimated to decrease by 30% to 43%.

“Reducing the amount of salt that is already added to the food that we eat could mean that teenagers live many more years free of hypertension,” Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., associate professor at UCSF and lead author of the study, was quoted as saying. “The additional benefit of lowering salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty.”

The study found that teenagers sticking to a salt-moderated diet could enjoy health benefits as they reach the age of 50. These benefits include a 7% to 12% decrease of coronary heart disease, an 8% to 14% decrease of heart attacks, a 5% to 8% reduction of strokes, and a 5% to 9% decrease of death from any cause.

To follow a reduced-salt diet, teenagers would be mainly required to lower their intake of processed and prepared foods, where 80% of dietary salt is found. 35% of dietary salt is concentrated in cereals, breads and pastries. Items requiring particular moderation are pizza, canned goods, condiments and fast food.

Thankfully, major companies are starting to join the National Sodium Reduction initiative, and many have sought to lower the amounts of salt that is added to their processed or prepared foods. Local, state and federal regulatory groups can also aid in encouraging food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt they use during production.

SOURCE: American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, 2010

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