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June 2023
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Study Says High Sodium Levels in Children is Cause for Concern

Why Children Should Pass on the Salt, Too

Salt One of the things many people overlook when scanning the nutritional facts on food cans, canisters, boxes and bags is the sodium content.  So many food companies tout their product’s low calorie, low fat and low sugar levels—all good things..  But what virtually all of these food companies fail to point out is their product’s high sodium levels.  Canned soups and frozen food novelties are particularly negligent in this area.

While all of us need sodium in order to maintain proper electrolyte balance, too much sodium can cause a number of health issues, such as high blood pressure, often a precursor to heart disease.  And according to new research, warning of high sodium levels is advice children need to follow as well.
Some of you may remember the clarion call made by the American Medical Association in late 2006, warning of the high levels of sodium found in processed foods.  Some companies listened, but not nearly enough, particularly food companies that appeal to children’s taste buds.
In the Journal of Human Hypertension, a medical journal based in the United Kingdom, researchers examined the sodium levels of over 1600 children between the ages of 4 and 18.  Not surprisingly, their sodium levels increased with age, the young ones consuming approximately 5 grams of sodium a day, while the 18-year-olds consumed an average of just under 7 grams of sodium a day.  That may not sound like a lot, but we’re talking grams here folks, not milligrams (1000mg=1g). 

The recommended daily allowance of sodium for children in the United Kingdom is comparable to the United States’ RDA levels.  And as you might imagine, the observed average sodium levels for all ages exceeded the recommended RDA levels.  Though this finding is disquieting, what makes this finding resonate is the fact that for every extra sodium gram in children’s blood that exceeded the RDA level correlated with a 0.4mmHG rise in their blood pressure levels (mmHG=millimeters of mercury, the measurement unit used to measure blood pressure).  In other words, the more salt consumed, the greater chance there is for hypertension, the greater chance for heart disease.

The researchers admit that this increase isn’t extremely high, but small increases like these add up over time, especially for children who don’t exercise regularly.  Proactive parents would be well-advised to keep track of their kids’ sodium levels by either reducing the number of processed foods they consume (no doubt the Culprit in Chief of excessive sodium levels), remaining vigilant on the checking of food nutrition labels, and/or encouraging their kids to exercise more, as sodium is an essential component to extended exercise.  Of course, encouraging children to exercise is a good idea by itself, but it’s a particularly good idea for those children who consume excess sodium.  Sodium levels diminish through sweating.

In summary, keep track of your kids’ nutrition by targeting foods that have healthy sodium levels.  What’s considered healthy?  For soups, aim for a sodium content level of 480 mg or less. 

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