Using data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention found the average sodium intake for kids between the ages of 6 and 18 years was 3,256 milligrams per day. That does not include any salt being added at the table.
Experts propose the recommended intake for this age group to be limited to 1,900 mg/day to 2,300 mg/day, depending on age.
The ten offenders
According to the study, high levels of sodium are being consumed at breakfast (14%), lunch (31%) and dinner (39%), as well as 16% from snacks.
However, researchers were able to narrow it down to only 10 types of foods that contribute to almost 50% of the subject groups’ sodium intake. These included pizza, Mexican dishes, sandwiches (including burgers), breads, cold cuts (meats), soups, savory snacks, cheese, high fat milk and poultry.
“With the exception of plain milk, which naturally contains sodium, the top ten food categories contributing to US school children’s sodium intake comprised foods in which sodium is added during processing or preparation,” said lead author Zerleen S. Quader, MPH, a data analyst with the CDC.
Minors at risk for heart disease
The researchers found evidence to suggest that one in nine children already has blood pressure above the normal range for their age, sex and height.
Although not the only contributor, salt could play a major factor in causing high blood pressure, which increases cardiovascular risk (CVR), including heart disease and strokes. Annually, the CDC reports more than 800,000 Americans are killed by cardiovascular disease
“Sodium reduction is considered a key public health strategy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and this study is the latest in ongoing CDC efforts to monitor US sodium intake,” said Quader.
“We already know that nearly all Americans regardless of age, race, and gender consume more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet and the excess intake is of great concern among particular youths.”
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Published online ahead of print, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.010
”Sodium Intake among US School-Aged Children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.”
Authors: Zerleen S. Quader, Cathleen Gillespie, Sarah A. Sliwa, Jaspreet K.C. Ahuja, Jinee P. Burdg, Alanna Moshfegh, Pamela R. Pehrsson, Janelle P. Gunn, Kristy Mugavero, and Mary E. Cogswell.