The researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, used computer modeling to estimate the effect of a three-gram daily salt reduction – equivalent to about 1,300mg of sodium. Teenagers consume more sodium on average than any other demographic, they said – over 3,800mg a day – more than 50 percent above the maximum limit of 2,300mg recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Pizza is teenagers’ number one source of sodium, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Considering that an estimated 70 to 80 percent of sodium in the average American diet comes from processed foods, the researchers said that the best way to cut teenagers’ salt consumption is for manufacturers to continue their ongoing sodium reduction efforts.
Lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said: "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. 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."
According to their analysis, the researchers projected that reducing average teenage salt consumption from the current nine grams a day to six grams a day would have many measurable health benefits by the time they reached the age of 50. Benefits included a seven to 12 percent reduction in coronary heart disease, an eight to 14 percent reduction in heart attacks, a five to eight percent reduction in stroke, and a five to nine percent reduction in death from any cause.
“The hidden places of salt in our diet are in breads and cereals, canned foods and condiments, and of course fast foods,” Bibbins-Domingo said.
She added that manufacturers should continue to cooperate on sodium reduction at the local, state and federal levels, including through schemes like the National Sodium Reduction Initiative that was developed in conjunction with national health organizations, in order to set targets for sodium reduction in packaged foods, and launched in New York City earlier this year.