Research Finds: Teenagers Unknowingly Putting Their Health At Risk By Eating Too Much Salt

  • Research finds that salt in children’s diets is from breads and cereal products (36%), meat products (19%) and dairy products (11%)
  • 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 yr olds, and 2 ½ grams per day higher in 13-17 year olds.

This new British Heart Foundation funded research, the first to accurately measure salt intake in children’s diets, found (Ref 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 Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts 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 8.1g 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.”

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.  It is hard to know how much salt you are feeding your children as identical looking products can contain hugely different amounts of salt – looking at the labels can help you make healthier choices for you and your family.

The new research coincides with the launch of National Salt Awareness Week 2014 (10th – 16th March) is centred around 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 (Ref 2).