Jaedon Peyton from Clinton gets his blood pressure checked by Amanda Robbins of Pediatric Group of Paducah during a pediatric blood pressure screening at Kentucky Oaks Mall in July. A new report from the CDC says children consume as much salt on a daily basis as adults do.
The link between excessive salt intake and the increased risk of elevated blood pressure in adults has been well documented by health care professionals, but according to new government research, American children may be consuming as much salt as adults: About 1,000 milligrams too much.
And with the findings from that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, researchers also highlight the risk that high blood pressure may drastically increase in children considered overweight or obese.
According to an Associated Press report, the CDC looked at data on 6,200 children aged 8 to 18 involved in 2003-2008 national health surveys. The kids were asked twice over several days to detail all foods they’d eaten the previous day; the researchers calculated salt intake from their answers.
Overall, 15 percent had either high blood pressure or slightly elevated blood pressure called hypertension.
Those who ate the most salt faced double the risk of having elevated blood pressure, compared with those who ate few salty foods. But among overweight or obese kids, the risk was more than triple.
CDC researcher Quanhe Yang said it’s unclear why heavier kids would be more sensitive to salt, but it could be due to obesity-related hormone changes. The results are concerning because studies have shown an elevated blood pressure in childhood, even just prehypertension, can lead to full-fledged high blood pressure in adulthood.
According to the American Heart Association, children aged 6 to 11 consume an average of more than 3,000 mg/day of sodium, and boys aged 12 to 19 average more than 4,000 mg/day. The CDC currently recommends about 2,300 mg of salt daily, or about 1 teaspoon.
Cutting back on salt consumption could be hedged as part of an effort to eat a balanced diet, said Julie Muscarella, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Purchase District Health Department.
“In the fast-paced society that we live in, eating processed foods seems to be a way of life, so if we could reduce that amount of processed foods and increase the amounts of natural foods with lower amounts of sodium, we might a better balance,” she said.
The Heart Association advocates a reduction in sodium consumption for both children and adults to less than 1,500 mg/day by 2020, combined with a more heart healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, high fiber, whole grains, low fat or fat-free dairy and fish.
“We’re talking about dialing down the flavor,” Muscarella said. “It happens over time, but if you dial down your taste for salt, after a while you might taste a salty food and might look for an alternative.”
Consuming foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, beans and yogurt can also help reduce blood pressure.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.