The average U.S. child consumes as much salt as an adult, a new study finds.
In the study, children ages 8 to 18 consumed about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day between 2003 and 2008. That's about the same amount of sodium consumed by U.S. adults during that time period, the researchers say.
Moreover, the higher the children's sodium intake, the greater their blood pressure was.
Children who consumed the most sodium were about twice as likely to have high blood pressure, or borderline high blood pressure, compared with children who consumed the least amount of salt. Among overweight children and obese children, the increased risk of high blood pressure from a high sodium diet was even greater.
According to U.S. dietary guidelines, children should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Reducing sodium intake can be difficult, the researchers said, adding that more than 75 percent of sodium in the diet comes from processed or restaurant food.
Still, children and adults can control their sodium intake and weight by keeping an eye on portion sizes, checking sodium levels on nutrition labels and minimizing the amount of processed foods they eat, the researchers said.
Interventions that reduce sodium intake, increase physical activity and help kids maintain a healthy weight may decrease the percentage of kids with high blood pressure, the researchers said.
The researchers analyzed information from 6,235 children who answered questions about the food they ate over the last day.
Thirty-seven percent of participants were overweight or obese, and 15 percent had high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure.
The average systolic blood pressure was 106.2 mm Hg among the children who consumed the least amount of sodium, and 108.8 mm Hg among those that consumed the most sodium.
Overweight and obese children who consumed the most sodium were 3.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure or borderline high blood pressure, compared with those that consumed the least sodium.
Obesity and sodium intake appeared to interact to increase high blood pressure risk. For every 1,000 mg increase in sodium intake, the risk of high blood pressure increased 74 percent among kids who were overweight or obese, but only 6 percent among normal weight children.
Because of this interaction, "reducing sodium intake or weight reduction among children and adolescents in the United States may lead to a greater than expected reduction in [high blood pressure]," the researchers said.
The researchers noted that children in the study reported their own dietary intake, which may not be entirely accurate.
The study is published today (Sept. 17) in the journal Pediatrics.
Pass it on: In children, high salt intake increases the risk of high blood pressure, especially for kids who are overweight or obese.