Children Eating Too Much Salt At Every Meal Interview with:

Zerleen S. Quader, MPH CDC

Zerleen S. Quader

Zerleen S. Quader, MPH
CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Sodium reduction is considered a key public health strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease nationwide, and this study is the latest in ongoing CDC efforts to monitor U.S. sodium intake.

Eating habits and taste for salt are established early in life by what children eat. Eating too much sodium can set them up for high blood pressure now and health problems later. Previous evidence suggests that one in nine children already has blood pressure above the normal range, and strong evidence has shown that reducing sodium intake reduces blood pressure – and lowering blood pressure lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease among adults. With voluntary efforts already underway by some manufacturers to lower the sodium and added sugar content in some of their products, these findings help provide a baseline to monitor changes in the food industry, as well as sodium intake among U.S. youth.

We examined data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine sodium intake by major food category, place and eating occasion. We found that average sodium intake among participants was 3,256 mg, and that doesn’t include salt added at the table. On the day of assessment, nearly 90 percent exceeded the upper level of sodium recommended for a healthy diet.

• There were some variations based on age and gender. For example:
o Average intake was highest among high school-aged children
o Girls had significantly lower daily intake than boys (for example, 2,919 mg versus 3,584 mg)
• In addition, we found that ten types of food make up nearly half of youth sodium intake nationwide, including pizza, bread, lunch meats and snack foods.

We also analyzed where the foods were obtained and found that approximately 58 percent of sodium comes from store foods, 16 percent from fast food and pizza restaurants and 10 percent from school cafeteria foods. And when we looked at occasion, we discovered that 39 percent of sodium intake was consumed at dinner, 31 percent at lunch, 16 percent from snacks and 14 percent from breakfast. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Average sodium intake among U.S. school-aged children remains high and is associated with consumption of sodium-dense foods. However, it’s not attributed to a specific type of food or source or eating occasion. Instead, we found that children are eating too much sodium at every meal, from every setting and from commonly consumed foods.

Healthcare providers are an influential source of information and can play a key role in educating patients on the importance of reducing salt in the diet. Providers can help teach children and parents how to read nutrition labels when choosing food or make small changes each day to reduce sodium intake, such as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without added salts or sauces. They can also provide counsel on how to follow a diet consistent with the DASH eating plan. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research using up-to-date nutrient data could examine food reformulation by location. For example, examining foods obtained in school cafeterias can help evaluate the influence of sodium reduction strategies among U.S. school-aged children. Examining the validity of 24-hour dietary recalls (used in this analysis) to assess sodium intake among children could also improve monitoring in this population. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than 800,000 Americans each year and contribute an estimated $320 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. These findings really highlight the importance of – and support for – reducing sodium content in U.S. food types, occasions, and venues, as no one category accounts for the majority of intake.

We all must work together to provide lower-sodium food options for children. It’s important for their health now and in the future. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Sodium Intake among US School-Aged Children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012
Quader, Zerleen S. et al.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on November 8, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD