The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 were eating an average of 3,387 milligrams a day of sodium. That's nearly the same amount consumed by adults and more than double the 1,500 daily milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association.
"It's very disturbing that this nation's children and teens consume too much salt in their diets at school and home. High blood pressure, once viewed as an adult illness is now affecting more young people because of high sodium diets and increasing obesity," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "While new nutrition standards for school meals are helping, progress is slow. This study strongly underscores the need to move faster because our kids are on an early path to heart attacks and strokes."
Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and several other serious health problems. High blood pressure is one of several diseases that once appeared mainly in adults but has become much more common in youths during our childhood obesity epidemic.
The CDC study found that the risk for high blood pressure among overweight and obese youths rose 74 percent for every 1,000 milligrams of increased sodium intake per day. That compared to only a 6 percent increase among normal-weight young people.
More than 75 percent of sodium in the diets of Americans comes from processed and restaurant foods, as well as beverages. So much sodium in the food supply leaves many youths with little control over how much they consume.
"The salt we all eat daily is becoming a major public health issue and current approaches to sodium reduction in the U.S. have not been effective," Brown said. "We must make the reduction of sodium a national priority."
The American Heart Association recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture institute strong sodium targets in schools and apply new sodium limits sooner than what is currently required. The association also has also called on the Food and Drug Administration to decrease the Daily Value for sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day and to set mandatory limits on the sodium content of foods.