Children Eat Too Much Salt, Researchers Find
The majority of children are eating more than the recommend daily allowance of salt, researchers have found, as they call on manufactuers to do more to make food healthier
Children are eating too much salt and can have consumed almost half their daily limit by breakfast time, a report has warned.
Cereal, bread and dairy products account for 47 per cent of the 6g recommended salt allowance for teenagers.
Health experts warn that too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke and say the origins of poor health often begin in childhood.
"We know that salt starts increasing the risk of high blood pressure in children starting at age one,” said Dr Graham MacGregor Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry
"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.
"There needs to be a much greater effort to reduce salt in foods."
Researchers studied the sodium content of 350 London children over a 24 hour period and asked them to keep a detailed food diary.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that most children are exceeding the recommended intake of salt on a daily basis.
Those aged between five and six are eating 0.75 grams more than the recommended daily amount while teens are exceeding the limit by around 1.5 grams, the research suggests.
Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at Oxford University said: “The recommended salt maximum for children is lower than adults, but children often eat the same food as adults and so it's not surprising they are getting too much salt.
“Limiting salt intake for children is important to avoid developing a preference for salty foods and to reduce the chances of developing high blood pressure later in life.”
Boys tended to have a higher salt intake than girls, the authors said.
The biggest culprits were cereals and breads, which accounted for 36 per cent of daily salt intake followed by meat products which provided 19 per cent and dairy accounted for 11 per cent.
“Children, particularly teenagers, are eating a worryingly high amount of salt” said nutritionist 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 per cent 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.”
Previous studies have suggested that a bowl of cornflakes can contain more salt that bag or ready-salted crisps.
However the Association of Cereal Food Manufactures said that since 1998 breakfast cereal manufacturers have reduced salt levels by 57 per cent.
Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: “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.”
Sarah Knapton - telegraph.co.uk