Are processed foods and excessive salt intake putting your children at future risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure?
According to Bernard Rosner, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues, changes in eating habits over the last two decades, dependence on processed foods, and an over-consumption of salt are the likely reasons the risk of elevated blood pressure among children and teens has risen 27% over a 13-year period.
In a paper published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Assn., Rosner, lead author of the study, shared these disturbing results. The study examined health and nutrition data for more than 11,600 children ages 8 to 17.
As with adults, obesity among children and adolescents has been on the rise for the past 20 years.
Certainly in the last 20 years, the preponderance of processed foods available and fast food tendencies have increased to monumental levels. Adding to the scale is the presence of massive amounts of supplementary salt.
Adults and children are well exceeding their nutritional needs and recommended levels of sodium, which is progressively increasing.
Two sets of health and nutrition data were studied from different decades: 1988 to 1994, and 1999 to 2008.
There were “significant” increases in weight and body mass index for boys and girls.
Approximately 16% of the children studied had blood pressure over recommended levels, classified as having “elevated” blood pressure.
Interestingly, the percentage of overweight boys and girls both increased by 8%. The boys rose from 27% to 35%, while the percentage of overweight girls rose from 25% to 33%.
In addition to the increase in overweightness, there were also large increases in waist circumference for boys and especially for girls.
The children in the top 25% group of body mass or waist circumference were twice more likely to experience higher blood pressure than those in the bottom 25% group.
Even worse, children with the greatest sodium intake were 36% more likely than those with the lowest intake to have elevated blood pressure.
Many studies have proven that adults with a high sodium intake many times suffer with high blood pressure. But there have been far fewer studies with children, and a clear connection has not been established.
That is what makes this study so important. Their findings did just that; it demonstrated an association between excessive salt intake among children and elevated blood pressure. The authors believe their study provides support to call for a national reduction in salt intake.
We should all be aware of eating better and providing our children with fresh food. Children whose only choices are processed foods and fast food chains for most of their diet will continue to be at risk for stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.
Start by focusing on feeding your children at least five portions of fruit and vegetable daily. Encouraging your kids to eat better by promoting healthy eating habits will help establish a foundation for adulthood.
Start a discussion in your house today about counting fruits and vegetables daily!