November 18, 2016
2 min read

Children continue to consume more salt than recommended

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Most children consume more than the 2,300-mg recommended daily allowance of sodium, according to research findings recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

The researchers also found that children’s salt intake occurred throughout the day, and overall, many of the study results are consistent with previous research on the subject.

“Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $320 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity,” Zerleen S. Quader, MPH, and of the CDC, said in a podcast about the study. “Sodium reduction could have a big impact on improving heart health nationwide.”

Researchers used data from the 2011 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to identify 2,142 children aged 6 to 18 years who completed a 24-hour dietary recall. The mean daily sodium intake was 3,256 mg — before salt from a salt shaker was added — and 89% had consumed more than 2,300 mg on the day intake was assessed. The average daily sodium intake was lowest among girls (2,919 ± 74 mg) and highest among adolescents aged 14 to 18 years (3,565 ± 120 mg). Average intake and the top five sources of salt varied little by weight status or sociodemographic characteristics.

According to researchers, ten food categories — poultry; plain milk; cheese; savory snacks; soups; cold cuts and cured meats; yeast bread, rolls and buns; fast food/restaurant burgers, chicken, egg and hot dog sandwiches; Mexican mixed dishes; and pizza — made up 48% of sodium consumption in the children interviewed. Thirty-nine percent of sodium intake took place at dinner, followed by lunch (31%), snack time (16%), then breakfast (14%). The majority of foods with sodium (58%) were bought at the grocery store, followed by pizza and fast food restaurants (16%), the school cafeteria (10%), other sources, such as vending machines (10%), and establishments with wait staffs (7%).

“With the exception of plain milk, which naturally contains sodium, the top 10 food categories contributing to [U.S.] schoolchildren’s sodium intake during 2011-2012 comprised foods in which sodium is added during processing or preparation,” Quader and colleagues wrote. “Sodium is consumed throughout the day from multiple foods and locations, highlighting the importance of sodium reduction across the [United States] food supply.

“Health care providers and registered dietician nutritionists … can help teach [children and parents] how to read nutrition labels when choosing foods, or make small changes each day to reduce sodium intake, such as eating a diet, rich in fruits and vegetables without added salts or sauces,” Quader said in the podcast. “[They] can also provide counsel on how to follow a diet consistent with the [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)] eating plan. – by Janel Miller

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.