Less salt (sodium) for better health
Children are exposed to a large amount of salt (sodium chloride) in their diets from many forms of processed foods such as chips, hot dogs, pizza, and many others. In general, the more sodium in an individual’s diet, the higher an individual’s blood pressure is and the higher their risk for heart attacks and stroke.
Establish Good Food Habits in Childhood
Studies such as the Trials of Hypertension Prevention (TOHP), showed
Wide Individual Variation
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) examined research on dietary sodium intake and health outcomes in the general U.S. population and among individuals with hypertension; prehypertension; those 51 years of age and older; Black Americans; and those with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. The 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that existing evidence suggests that:
However, this evidence is not strong enough to say that these individuals should be treated differently than the general population. Since the release of the report, a study among individuals with chronic kidney disease (about 11% of U.S. population) suggests that reductions in sodium intake to the 2,300 mg/day level would have considerable benefit in preventing heart failure, myocardial infarction, and stroke.
Confusion over IOM Report
The IOM report led to confusing news reports with headlines like “Doubts About Restricting Salt" and "Study finds Low-Salt Diet Poses Health Hazard" that inaccurately suggest there is no health benefit from decreasing salt intake. Because most Americans consume far more than 2300 mg of sodium a day, a decrease in sodium intake to an average of 2,300 mg per day would be beneficial to most people. Some observers would say that there is not enough evidence that further decreasing sodium intake to 1500 mg a day has an additional benefit for the prevention of cardiovascular disease—or is harmful. However, a very careful analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016 concluded that there is strong evidence that there is a strong linear dose-response effect of sodium reduction on blood pressure and CVD risk down to 1,000 mg/day.
Salt is added to many processed foods
Because salt is added to so many processed foods, including canned foods, bakery goods, soups, snack foods such as chips, and fast foods such as pizza, it is difficult to limit the intake of sodium. As a result, 90% of Americans exceed the 2,400 mg/day recommendation. Note that 1 gram (gm) of table salt contains 413.19 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
According to the AHA, reducing daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day is particularly important for persons who are age 51 and older and those of any age who are Black or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults.
For most people, there is little need to worry about not getting enough sodium. Even in the probably unlikely instance that it did turn out to be harmful, the CDC estimates that fewer than 1% of Americans reach the 1,500 mg daily limit—our food supply is just too loaded with sodium. In fact, one large international study of 17 countries found that, as measured by sodium excretion, only 4% of study subjects ingested sodium in the U.S. recommended ranges. Only 3.3% of those studied consumed sodium as low as 2,300 mg per day, and just 0.6% of those studied reached 1,500 mg per day.
Low sodium diet effective in lowering blood pressure
A low sodium diet is even more effective in lowering blood pressure when it is combined with measures to increase fitness through appropriate levels of physical activity, attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. Adolescents should be aware that alcohol and cigarettes also contribute to hypertension. More than one drink of alcohol a day can raise blood pressure, and the chemicals in cigarette smoke raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels.
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