London: Toddlers as young ad four years, are suffering from raised blood pressure because they are eating too many salty processed foods, UK researchers say.
Campaigners claim this puts youngsters at an increased risk of hypertension in later life – potentially leading to heart disease, strokes and an early death.
The study, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, was conducted by St George’s University Hospital in London, drew a direct correlation between the level of salt in the diet of children aged between four and 18 and higher blood pressure.
The findings will heap pressure on heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if Britons cut salt intake the manufacturers of children’s snacks and ready meals to reduce the salt levels in their recipes.
A single packet of instant noodles can contain more than the recommended daily maximum salt intake for a child aged four to six.
Just one pack of salt and vinegar crisps is likely to have more than a quarter of a child’s salt quota.
The study looked at the salt intake for more than 1,600 children and teenagers over seven days and then measured their blood pressure.
The study found that for each extra gram of salt eaten by the participants, there was a related 0.4mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure.
Children’s increasingly salty diets are also a source of concern because our food tastes are largely set in childhood. Consequently, those who develop a love of salty food when young tend to keep it in adulthood.
The UK Government experts recommend that children aged four to six should not be eating more than 3g of salt a day, while the figure for youngsters aged seven to ten is 5g.
However, many children are thought to be regularly consuming 9-10g of salt a day, which is up to three times the recommended maximum.
This pattern continues into adult life, when the recommended maximum is 6g of salt a day, but the average for men is 10.2g and 7.2g for women.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Graham MacGregor, said: ‘We know that salt acts as a chronic long-term toxin, slowly putting up blood pressure as we grow older.
“The rise in blood pressure is the major cause of death and disability in the UK.”