Teenagers unknowingly putting their health at risk by eating too much salt, study reveals


New British Heart Foundation study shows salt in children's diets is from breads and cereal products (36%), meat products (19%) and dairy products (11%).

The study also revealed:

• Crisps and snacks surprisingly only accounted for 5% of salt intakes
• Boys tended to have higher salt intake than girls, particularly in the older and younger groups - about 1 gram higher per day in 5-6 year olds, and 2 ½ grams per day higher in 13-17 year olds.

This new study is the first to accurately measure salt intake in children's diets. (1) "We know that salt starts increasing the risk of high blood pressure in children starting at age one," said Professor Graham Macgregor, study author and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Wolfsan Institute of Preventive Medicine, Bart's and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. "There needs to be a much greater effort to reduce salt in foods. While salt intake in children wasn't measured prior to the UK's salt-reduction campaign, the average salt intake in adults has fallen 15 percent in six years to 8.1 g a day."

"Children, particularly teenagers, are eating a worryingly high amount of salt" says Katharine Jenner, registered nutritionist and Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health). "What is most surprising about this new study is that this salt is not coming from the salty foods you would expect teenagers to eat, such as crisps and snacks, which account for just 5% of their daily salt intake, but from breads and cereal products, which do not taste salty but account for a third of their daily salt intakes. Children are not choosing to eat salty foods, the salt is hidden in there by the food industry and they must take it out."

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: "Childhood and adolescence is an important time for the development of our tastes and food habits that can last a lifetime. Salt is a learned taste so it's worrying that so many of the children and young people in this study were already consuming more than the recommended amounts.

"The majority of salt in these children and young people's diets came from manufactured foods. This reinforces the need for continued food industry efforts to reduce the salt in their products. However, the adoption of colour coded labels by manufacturers as well as retailers is also important as it will help parents and children make healthier choices."

According to CASH, it is very difficult for parents to reduce children's salt intake unless they avoid packaged and restaurant foods and prepare each meal from scratch using fresh, natural ingredients. CASH suggest it is hard for parents to know how much salt they are feeding their children as identical looking products can contain hugely different amounts of salt and that looking at the labels can help parents to make healthier choices for themselves and their family.

The new study coincides with the launch of National Salt Awareness Week 2014 (10th - 16th March) is centred on the need for more consistent front of pack nutritional labelling - something that CASH has long been pushing for. The attention will be focussed on the need for better labelling; congratulating those who have signed up to the Department of Health's new front of pack labelling scheme, and encouraging others to follow suit. (2)



References:

1. Salt Intake of Children and Adolescents in South London
Naomi M. Marrero, Feng J. He, Peter Whincup, Graham A. MacGregor, Consumption Levels and Dietary Sources. Hypertension. 03/2014 DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02264

2. Colour-coded Nutrition Labelling
The ratings for red, amber and green for each nutrient are based on the Department of Health Guide to Creating a Front of Pack (FoP) Nutrition Label for Pre-packed Products Sold Through Retail Outlets:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/207588/FINAL_VERSION_OF_THE_2013_FOP_GUIDANCE_-_WEB.pdf