Thursday, 21 February 2008

Salt intake causes obesity

A British study is calling salt the "hidden factor in the obesity epidemic".
This study used the National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 1600 children aged 4-18 years and found that the kids that ate a saltier diet drank more sugary soft drinks. And we all know the link between soft drinks and obesity...

The kids' average sodium intake was 6 grams (the recommendation for a child 1-3 years old is less than 1.0g /day, 4-8 years old is less than 1.2grams/day and for a kid 9 or over, it's less than 1.5 grams/day!). Researchers estimate that if children cut their salt intake by half, there would be a decrease of ~2 soft drinks per week per child and this would correlate to a reduction of 300 calorie per week.

The researchers say that the salt is not just coming from the salt shaker- 80% is from manufactured foods.

Research has shown that children who have a high salt intake have higher blood pressure. Children who have high blood pressure usually become adults with high blood pressure and this increases significantly the risk of heart disease and stroke.

This research is interesting because it shows that it's difficult to separate the effects of a nutrient, like salt, from the habits that are associated with it. For example, perhaps the link between high blood pressure and salt can be due to a higher weight which is associated to a higher soft drink intake... or maybe to other nutrients and habits linked to a high salt intake...

Regardless, people are talking about the salt in manufactured foods now and are calling for the food industry to make a change. Maybe it's time for people to change their habits and stop relying on the food industry to help them!

Salt content of some kid menu meals:

Boston Pizza: Kid menu bacon double cheeseburger quesadilla with fries: 1720 mg sodium
Harvey's hamburger kid meal burger, fries, drink): 1485 mg sodium
Swiss Chalet kids menu grilled cheese sandwich: 1120mg sodium
McDonald's junior chicken sandwich, small fries and child's root beer: 965mg sodium

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