A new study links the sodium intake of teens to obesity. Researchers from the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University have determined that teens who consume diets high in sodium are at an increased risk of being obese and have higher percentages of body fat as compared to their peers who consume diets lower in sodium.
While previous studies noting a link between sodium intake and obesity have indicated that the relationship might exist purely because those consuming more sodium are also consuming more food, this new research found that that wasn’t the case. The teens consuming the most sodium were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese regardless of how much food they consumed, their level of physical activity or their soft drink consumption.
The researchers examined 766 healthy participants between the ages of 14 and 18 for the study. Approximately half were male and half female, and approximately half were African-American and half were white. The participants’ body compositions were measured and they were asked to complete a record of everything they had eaten within the previous 24 hour period as many as seven times over the course of a few months. By the end of the study they determined that on average, those that consumed the most sodium weighed 4 pounds more than those that consumed the least. Those consuming the most sodium also had significantly higher percentages of body fat and increased inflammation indicated throughout their bodies.
The study’s findings as to the average level of sodium intake among the young people were consistent with other data indicating that most children and teens in the U.S. are consuming amounts of sodium that are even in excess of the levels recommended for adults. A majority of young people in this country are consuming between 3.300 and 4,300 mg of sodium per day, while the American Heart Association’s recommended intake for adults is just 1,500 mg per day. 97 percent of participants in the study consumed in excess of the recommended adult amount.
While the researchers have now identified that the link between obesity and sodium intake exists for teens, they are still unable to account for exactly why that is, and say that more research is needed. Animal studies looking at the issue have found that increased sodium levels may promote the development of larger fat cells, but it is unclear whether the same is true in humans.
Excess sodium is linked not only to obesity but also to high blood pressure and the resulting cardiovascular disease associated with both conditions. The researchers hope that their study, recently published in the journal Pediatrics, will serve as a wake up call both to teens and to parents, who often have control over what foods their children choose to eat.
Medical professionals advise parents to aid their children in making healthy choices from a young age, as this is when taste preferences, food preferences and lifelong healthy eating habits can be established. They recommend offering a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as more home-cooked and less processed and fast foods known for the kind of high sodium levels linked to obesity in teens.
By Michele Wessel
Visalia Times Delta