High salt diets could be jeopardising children’s health

16 November 2009

Salt is becoming a hidden threat to the health of Australian children, according to Deakin University nutrition experts.

Data suggests that children are consuming up to 40 per cent more salt than is recommended. This alarming statistic has motivated Deakin nutrition researchers to undertake the first Australian study to determine exactly how much salt children are eating and what impact this is having on their health.

"The majority of salt consumed in this country is 'hidden' in commonly eaten foods, such as bread, cheese and breakfast cereals, so many people would be unaware of how much salt they are consuming on a daily basis," explained Caryl Nowson, Deakin's professor of nutrition and ageing.

"Eating too much salt is associated with high blood pressure, a major risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease which is a leading cause of death in Australian adults.

"For children, a diet high in salt is likely to lead to higher blood pressure levels earlier in their lives and contribute to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack in later years."

Recent research conducted by Deakin's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, and published in the October issue of the international journal Appetite, found that most consumers have difficulty interpreting information relating to salt on food packaging.

"This is another factor contributing to the increase in salt intake," Professor Nowson said. "If consumers are not able to understand the food labels as they relate to the salt content, then it is more difficult for them to choose low salt options."

Through the Salt and Other Nutrients Intake in Children (SONIC) study, the Deakin researchers will assess the amount of salt consumed daily by primary school aged children, the sources of salt intake and how this relates to the children's blood pressure and body weight.

"This information is essential for developing strategies that can be used to help reduce salt intake in children and in turn protect their health, both now and throughout their lifetimes," Professor Nowson.

The SONIC study is part of a large international project where researchers from the United Kingdom have already assessed the salt intake of children across London primary schools by testing urine samples.

The Deakin researchers are currently recruiting children from independent schools throughout Melbourne. Any schools interested in being a part of the study can contact Carley Grimes on 03 9244 6324 or emailcarley.grimes@deakin.edu.au


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