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Salt & Obesity?

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Huh? I think we all know that a high sodium intake increases our risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, but obesity? That's what Finnish researchers are saying in their review Sodium Intake and Hypertension published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

So what gives? The authors, Heikki Karppanen Eero Mervaala, chalk it up to thirst. Their theory is that the more sodium we consume the thirstier we get and therefore the more beverages we drink. If these beverages were water and other no calorie or low calorie beverages, than that would be fine (sort of.. sodium still increases our risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease). But they point out that over the past 25 years Americans are drinking A LOT of high calorie, high sugar beverages. In fact since 1977 our intake of sugary drinks has increased 135% and that accounts for an extra 278 calories per person per day. WOW!

It's no secret that our kids are drinking too many sugary sodas, soft drinks, sweetened ice teas, 'fruit' drinks and juice. But the sodium issue has kind of been reserved for adults because high blood pressure is so common in this age group. Kid food is often really high in sodium. Think hot dogs, mac and cheese, chips, chicken nuggets and so on. Thus the connection to increased thirst and more desire for fluids, often of the high calorie variety.

Bottomline, we gotta cut down our kids' sodium intake and sugary beverage intake to fight both obesity and their future risk for heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

I know it's a lot to think about cuz we're already so worried about fat, saturated fat and of course sugar but decreasing sodium content in our kids' foods needs to be a priority for us and for food manufacturers.

I invite any and all of you to pass on some tips offering ways we can reduce sodium in our kids' diets and also some good beverage options that are kid friendly but not loaded with sugar.

Here's the link for this study's abstract. http://www.progcardvascdis.com/article/PIIS0033062006000831/abstract

Unfortunately the full study costs some $ and the abstract doesn't get into the obesity issue as the paper looks at many health implications from too much sodium. But here are some other links for newspaper articles that get into more detail of what the authors found:

Finnish study links heavy salt intake with obesity

Salt intake is strongly associated with obesity

Numbers to keep in mind: Kids need about 1500 mg of sodium a day but their max intake should stop at a 1900 mg a for day 4-8 year olds, 2200 mg for 9-13 year olds and 2300 mg for 14-18 year olds. Adults need to stop at 2300 mg too. *Read the nutrition facts label of the foods you buy to check for sodium content.

As usual have a fruit and veggie filled day, they're naturally low in sodium :)
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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