SUNDAY, Nov. 14, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who eat less salt lower their long-term risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, new research indicates.
The finding stems from a computerized projection of what would happen if adolescent boys and girls were to shave off 3 grams of salt from their daily consumption of common processed foods.
"Reducing the amount of salt that is already added to the food that we eat could mean that teenagers live many more years free of hypertension," study lead author Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an American Heart Association news release. The findings were to be presented Sunday at the heart association's annual meeting, in Chicago.
"The additional benefit of lowering salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty," Bibbins-Domingo said.
The study authors noted that in the United States, teens are the main consumers of salt. Their daily ingestion of 9 grams of salt per day is higher than any other age group. At 3,800 milligrams of sodium, that amount is more than double the AHA recommendations for daily consumption (1,500 milligrams).
Approximately 80 percent of salt intake comes from processed and/or prepared foods. More than one-third of that salt is specifically found in cereals, breads, and pastries, while pizza (according to the National Center for Health Statistics) ranks as the nation's king of salt, the study authors said.
A daily 3-gram drop in consumption of the salt typically found in such foods would reduce the incidence of high blood pressure among teens by between 44 percent and 63 percent. And as these teens age, the high blood pressure incidence reductions would persist, dropping between 30 percent to 43 percent among 35- to 50-year olds, according to the study authors' computer modeling.
The analysis also revealed that by the time teens reached the age of 50, such salt reduction would result in a 7 percent to 12 percent drop in heart disease; an 8 percent to 14 percent drop in heart attacks; a 5 percent to 8 percent drop in stroke rates; and a 5 to 9 percent drop in deaths due to all causes.
Visit the American Heart Association for more on the group's salt guidelines.