Concerns that Australian children eating as much salt as adults

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 5th September 2012

The National Heart Foundation of Australia is alarmed at new research that says Australian children are eating as much salt as adults. N ew Australian research has revealed on average children are eating around six grams of salt a day, the equivalent of recommended adult levels.

The Heart Foundation’s Cardiovascular Health Director, Dr Robert Grenfell, said reducing salt in our diet was essential for improving Australia’s heart health.

“Children who have a diet high in salt often develop a taste for it and carry that damaging behaviour into adult life,” Dr Grenfell said.

“Sadly, if there is no action to improve our children’s food habits we are setting them up for a high chance of heart disease later in life.”

The average adult Australian eats around nine grams of salt a day, far in excess of the Heart Foundation’s recommended maximum of six grams, about a teaspoon full, for healthy Australians.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)’s Nutrient Reference Values for Australia & New Zealand show the upper limit of sodium consumption for children varies with age, for those 4-8 years it is 1400mg (3.5g), for those 9-13 years 2000mg (5g) and those 14-18 years it is the same as adults – 2300mg (6g).

“The large amount of salt in the Australian diet is concerning, but positive changes can be easily made, especially when you consider around 75% of our daily intake of salt is consumed through processed foods,” Dr Grenfell said.

“Eating just four slices of bread, or a single ham and cheese sandwich, could provide two grams of salt, which is over half the maximum daily intake for 4-8 year olds.

“We believe that more must be done by government and the food industry to make processed foods healthier.

“Improving Australia’s food supply is necessary to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease, Australia’s number one cause of death.

“Excessive salt consumption is a major killer, with estimates suggesting it may be responsible for as many as 6,000 premature Australian deaths a year, mostly from heart attacks and strokes.”