Parents concerned about their children’s weight may want to start watching how much salt is in every meal, snack and beverage. New research shows that most adolescents eat much more salt than recommended. High sodium intake correlates with fatness and inflammation, regardless of how many calories they consume, the study found.
“The majority of studies in humans show the more food you eat, the more salt you consume, the fatter you are,” said Dr. Haidong Zhu, a molecular geneticist at the Medical College of Georgia and Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University. “Our study adjusted for what these young people ate and drank and there was still a correlation between salt intake and obesity.”
The study included 766 healthy teens. Only 3 percent met the American Heart Association’s recommendation to consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.
The adolescents self-reported how much sodium they consumed daily. Most of them ate just as much sodium as adults – and sometimes even more.
High sodium intake has been linked to higher weight, possibly because it causes water retention. While the new study does not prove that salt causes obesity, it contributes to mounting evidence that high sodium could have a direct role in obesity and inflammation, Zhu and her colleagues reported. But more clinical trials are needed.
“Obesity has a lot of contributing factors, including physical inactivity,” Zhu said. “We think that high sodium intake could be one of those factors.”
Zhu said parents should encourage their children to choose fresh fruits and vegetables over French fries and processed meats and snacks.
“We hope these findings will reinforce for parents and pediatricians alike that daily decisions about how much salt children consume can set the stage for fatness, chronic inflammation and a host of associated diseases like hypertension and diabetes,” said study co-author Dr. Gregory Harshfield, Director of the Georgia Prevention Center at the GRU institute.
The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Source: Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University
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