Eating too much salt linked to increased risk of childhood obesity

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd March 2016

SaltDeakin University researchers in Melbourne have found that children who eat more than the recommended amount of salt have an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese.


Published in Volume 115, Issue 6 of the British Journal of Nutrition, the study measured the salt intake of 666 primary schoolchildren in Australia aged between 4 and 12 years of age.


Lead researcher, Dr Carley Grimes from Deakin University said her research team wanted to get an accurate measure of just how much salt Australian children are consuming.


“Because we excrete most of the salt that we eat each day in our urine, we asked children to collect their urine for a whole day,” Dr Grimes said.


“From this we were able to get an objective and accurate measure of how much salt children are eating,” she said.


The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted in Australia.


More than half of Australia’s children are eating too much salt


“We found that 70 per cent of Australian children are eating over the maximum amount of salt recommended for good health. In this study children were eating on average 6 grams of salt a day, which is over a teaspoon, and they should be aiming to eat about 4-5 grams a day,” Dr Grimes stated.


”For every additional gram of salt children ate this was associated with a 23 per cent greater likelihood of being overweight or obese.  Such high intakes of salt are setting children up for a lifetime risk of future chronic disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease,” she said.


Salt coming from everyday foods


Dr Grimes said that a lot of the salt children are eating is coming from everyday foods including bread, cheese, ham and sausages.


“Foods that contain higher levels of salt may enhance the flavour of foods which are often also higher in fat and energy and a salty diet may also encourage greater consumption of high energy sugar-sweetened beverages when these are available,” she said.


“This study is ringing alarm bells as we now have good evidence to indicate the need to cut the amount of salt that our children are eating,” said Dr Grimes.


Study cause for serious concern: National Heart Foundation


National Heart Foundation CEO, Professor Garry Jennings AO said the study is cause for serious concern.


“It highlights the importance of salt reduction to reduce the risk of future chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease later in life,” said Professor Jennings.


“As a national leader in research into the causes, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, the vital research the Heart Foundation funds has never been more important, especially when it concerns the future health of our next generation,” he said.


Deakin University is now recruiting new students for a new study exploring whether an online education program can help lower salt consumption.