High salt intake makes kids obese

25 February, 2008

Children on a salty diet have more sugary drinks that make them fat.

High salt intake is one of the reasons for obesity in kids.

Researchers at University of London, the United Kingdom, who studied data on 1,600 children, have found that children eating a salty diet are inclined to drink more, including sugary soft drinks that are fattening.

The study, published in Hypertension, the journal of the American Heart Association, says that halving the average daily consumption of salt that is, 6 grams a day could cut 250 calories a week from a child's diet.

According to official statistics, one in five children in the United Kingdom is overweight. It is feared that this trend will lead to increasing incidence of adult obesity, heart disease and stroke in the future.

The study conducted at the University of London is the first of its kind to examine the effect of salt on children.

The research team scrutinized data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, conducted in 1997, using a sample of 1,600 children aged 4 to 18 years who had all had their salt and fluid intake measured precisely.

It was found that children eating a diet low in salt drank less fluid. Reduction of 1 gram of salt from a daily diet would reduce intake of fluid by 100 grams a day. And, about a quarter of those 100 grams would be sugary soft drinks.

The researchers urged parents to check the salt content of their children's meals and manufacturers to find ways to reduce the salt content.

Professor Graham McGregor, one of the authors of the study report and chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, was quoted as saying, "While some manufacturers had acted to reduce salt levels in bread and cereals the main sources of salt for children there was still plenty left for the industry to do. Unfortunately, some food specifically targeted at children has to be laced with salt otherwise it would be inedible, because it is made from mechanically recovered meat. The salt levels in some of these products have been brought virtually up to the level of sea water.

Scientists forecast that a quarter of children will be obese by 2050 resulting in a huge increase in the number of cases of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Guidelines issued by the British government say that children aged between 1 and 3 should eat no more than 2 grams of salt a day, those aged between 4 and 6 should not have more than 3 grams, and those aged between 7 and 10 years should limit consumption of salt to a maximum of 5 grams.

Adults should not take more than 6 grams of salt a day. It has been estimated that, in the United Kingdom, the average adult consumes around 9 grams of salt a day.




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