Cutting teen salt intake reduces heart disease risk later in life

November 16, 2010 in Heart Health, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Cutting teen salt intake reduces heart disease risk later in life
According to new research, cutting back on teenager's salt intake by as little as one-half teaspoon, or three grams a day, could reduce the number of young adults with high blood pressure by 44 to 63 percent, and reduce the number of heart attacks by up to 14 percent.

The findings, conducted by researchers at the University of California and Columbia University Medical Center, were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2010 meeting in Chicago.

Researchers examined the potential impact of population-wide reductions in dietary salt on cardiovascular risk in American adolescents using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2008.  Researchers used a computer simulation of heart disease among U.S. adults to help project potential benefits of public health interventions.

The findings indicate that even small reductions in the amount of salt could have a significant impact.

Researchers note that the U.S. diet is high in salt, and adolescents consume more salt (more than 9 grams or 3,800 milligrams of sodium) than any other age group. 

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day for most Americans.

Researchers note that processed food and packaged food are major contributors to salt intake among teens, and reducing intake of these food items can have an important health benefit for teens during their teenage years and as they become young and middle age adults.

By lowering dietary salt by just three grams per day, the researchers project 44-63 percent fewer hypertensive young people aged 12-24 years, 7-12 percent fewer incidents of coronary heart disease, 8-14 percent fewer heart attacks and 5-8 percent fewer strokes.

Although the study findings used American data, figures for Canada would likely be similar. According to Statistics Canada most Canadians, including teens, consume far more salt in their average daily diet than is necessary. In 2004, the average sodium intake for all Canadians was 3,092 mg per day day, one-third more than the recommended maximum amount.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends Canadians get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt.  It's estimated that as much as 90 percent of an individual's sodium intake can come from packaged and processed food.

For more information on reducing your sodium intake, please visit the Heart and Stroke Health Check Nutrient Standards for Sodium.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.