Health/Nutrition - The Link Between
Salt and Obesity
Childhood obesity is a major problem among our youth. While inactivity, fatty foods, and supersizing have been cited as reasons for this epidemic, there's a less obvious factor that is lurking in our food. Salt. That's right, the high salt content of our foods may be a cause of obesity.
How Salt Increases Calorie Consumption
Here's how it works. Salt makes you thirsty. Soft drinks are the drink of choice for thirsty children and adolescents, and half of the soft drinks they consume tend to be sugar-sweetened. Such sugar-sweetened soft drinks contain excess calories that contribute to obesity.
These findings are well-known and were revealed in a study on the link between salty foods, soft drinks and obesity, published in the American Heart Association's journal, "Hypertension."
The researchers examined a seven-day dietary record of 1688 British children and adolescents, aged 4 to 18 years. Fluid and salt intake was measured and a number of factors such as activity levels were controlled and monitored.
It was found, as has been reported in other studies, that those who consumed more salt also consumed more fluids.
It was also found that sugared soft drinks were the preference for thirsty children and adolescents and accounted for over one-third of their total fluid intake. So increased salt intake produced an increase in the consumption of calories via sugared soft drinks. More salt equaled more calories.
Most of the salt was ingested in salty meals and snacks, with only 10-15% of the salt coming out of the salt shaker. Processed foods are notoriously high in salt and are a staple in many family meals.
The Effect on Excess Body Weight
It was estimated that reducing the salt intake of UK children by half (a decrease of 3 grams, or one-half teaspoon, of salt per day) would result in an average reduction of 2.3 sugar-sweetened soft drinks per week per child.
That's a reduction of 224 calories per week per child, or an average of 3.3 pounds per child per year! Five years of reducing such consumption and the average child would be carrying 16 fewer pounds!
Do These Figures Relate to North America?
These results are extremely relevant to North American children. It has been found that sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption among American children is similar to that of children in the United Kingdom.
Other Risks of Salt
Salt is a well-known contributor to high blood pressure, a risk factor in heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that a reduction in salt intake will also produce a drop in blood pressure in children.
1.Jill Castle, Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete, AMACOM, 2015
2. Feng J. He, Naomi M. Marrero and Graham A. MacGregor, "Salt Intake is Related to Soft Drink Consumpion in Children and Adolescents: A Link to Obesity? Hypertension (American Heart Association), March 1, 2008. http://hyper.ahajournals.org/
2. Wang YC, Gortmaker SL, Sobol AM, Kuntz KM. Estimating the energy gap among US children: a counterfactual approach. Pediatrics. 2006;118: e1721--e1733. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/
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