News reports this week of the high salt diet that most UK babies consume were slightly inflated. “Seventy percent of 8-month-olds consume too much salt, UK study shows” was the headline from one news report. The study quoted was actually from a study of children born in 1991-1992, and although the cohort was large – almost 1,200 participants, and yes 70% of these babies did consume over 0.4g sodium (1g salt) per day….this ‘news’ is nearly 20 years old!
So is salt still an issue now and can we learn anything from this study?
It is well known that a high salt intake in adults is associated with high blood pressure (hypertension). This in turn increases the risk of heart disease and strokes three-fold. High salt intakes are also linked to other conditions such as osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease and kidney stones, and exacerbating the symptoms of asthma, Meniere’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.
There is now evidence that a high salt intake in childhood also influences blood pressure and may predispose an individual to develop; high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and obesity. Dietary habits in childhood can influence eating patterns in later life. Liking salty foods is a learned taste preference.
The study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July showed how the majority of the salt came from foods such as cow’s milk, bread and savoury food. Remember this was the 1990’s. Since then, baby food companies have reduced the salt content of their jar foods considerably, cow’s milk is not recommended as a main drink until over 12 months of age, and parents are told to be aware of added salt.
Current recommendations for salt consumption are:
Age Maximum salt recommendation
0-6 months <1g/day (<0.4g sodium)
7-12 months 1g/day (0.4g sodium)
1-3 years 2g/day (0.8g sodium)
4-6 years 3g/day (1.2g sodium)
7-10 years 5g/day (2g sodium)
11+ years 6g/day (2.4g sodium)
Salty foods to watch out for are: bread (0.18g sodium per slice), gravy (0.15g in one tablespoon made-up gravy), breakfast cereals (up to 0.06g sodium per portion), canned foods and ready meals (canned spaghetti = 0.42g/100g). Also, one bag of salted crisps (25g) contains 0.4g salt or 0.2g sodium.
Cribb VL, Warrn JM and Emmett PM. Contribution of inappropriate complementary foods to the salt intake of 8-month-old infants. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 20 2011.