New study links high salt intake and high blood pressure in children

Published: Sep. 17, 2012 at 7:57 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 24, 2012 at 9:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - American children are eating too much salt, as much as adults.

That's in a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that also found the salt children and adolescents ate was linked with higher blood pressure.

The researcher found the link may be even stronger for overweight or obese children.

High blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke later in life.

The recommended daily salt intake for children and adults is about 2,300 milligrams.

That's about one teaspoon from all foods over one day.

However, the study found, on average, children and adolescents ate 3,300 milligrams day.

That's almost another half-teaspoon.

It's not only salt from the salt shaker, but from processed foods and fast foods that figure heavily in the American diet.

University of Arizona Professor of Public Health and Registered Dietitian Dr. Cynthia Thomson says all that makes it challenging to reduce the sodium in our diets.

So, she says the best way to do it is to think fresh.

Thomson says fresh foods generally do not have a lot of sodium.

"Think about avoiding things that are pickled, things where you can see the salt on it. You know, if you're buying chips and you se the salt. You put the nuts in your hand, it's covered with salt, you know you're getting too much sodium," Thomson says.

She says you can find low or no sodium canned foods, the just add spices--not salt--to liven them up.

One place you'll find an effort to cut things like salt, fat and calories is the school lunch program.

Tightening federal guidelines mean children are getting less salt in their school lunches.

Like other school districts, Flowing Wells Unified follows state and federal guidelines.

You'll see all-you-can-eat salad bars at every Flowing Wells school.

It's all you can eat fruits and vegetables too.

Plus, you'll see smaller portions of the less healthful foods that kids like a lot.

The idea is to get them to eat what they like, but fill up on the foods that are good for them.

That means less salt, less fat and fewer calories.

"We want to encourage them to eat those healthy vegetables, those healthy fruits and in this new pattern, they have the ability to take as many as they want through our salad bars here, as well as all of our lines, which really increases the amount that they're eating, but it also increases the healthy amount that they're eating," says Flowing Wells Unified School District Food Service Director Carl Thompson.

Back at the UA, we asked Professor Thomson about studies that show too little salt can be dangerous.

She said low sodium is an extreme condition that is rare, especially in children.

She said it's not a common health risk.

Another tip from Professor Thomson:

She says, "To help prevent high blood pressure, not only is it important to keep your sodium down, it's equally important to try to get more potassium in your diet, to try and promote healthy blood pressure."

"So it can be the apricots. It can be bananas. It can be raisins. It can be any of the citrus fruits, even the orange vegetables like sweet potato, the greens are a good source of potassium," Thomson says.

Thomson reminds us this is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

She created a chart to help KOLD News 13 viewers find the foods that are best for them and their loved ones, and know which to avoid.

The CDC study is in the journal Pediatrics.

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.