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Friday, September 19, 2014

Sodium Intakes in US School Children

Sodium Intakes in US School Children
The CDC just released a report detailing sodium intake in school-aged children, using information gathered in 2009-2010 from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES):

Sodium intakes are a concern due to associations of high intakes with hypertension (high blood pressure) – a contributor to stroke and heart disease.
Children had an average sodium intake of 3,279 mg/day, higher than the Healthy People 2020 for the US population ≥2 years old: 2,300 mg. The highest intake of total sodium was in boys and high school students; adjusted per 1000 kcals consumed, the highest intakes were in high school children. This suggests sodium intake increases as children take in more food-but selections among high school students also contain more sodium relative to their calorie content than selections of younger children. There were generally no differences in sodium intakes among race/ethnic groups, among groups with different household incomes, and between children of normal weight vs. those who were overweight.

There were interesting findings for food sources of sodium. The largest contributors are: pizza, yeast breads, cold cuts & cured meats, savory (not sweet) snacks, sandwiches, cheese, processed chicken products (nuggets, etc.), pasta dishes, Mexican dishes, and soups. There were other categories that contributed sodium when the data was arranged by age and ethnic groups, and this detail is available at the link above. The majority of sodium was contributed by grocery store foods; however, fast foods contributed the most sodium per kcal. For those children eating a school meal on the day this information was gathered, 26% of their sodium came from school foods. On a per meal basis, 14.9% comes from breakfast; 29.5% from lunch, 39.2% from dinner, and 16.4% from snacks.

These data suggest that sodium intakes reflect similar types of foods consumed across different populations of children, and supports ongoing efforts to reduce sodium in processed foods purchased both in grocery stores and restaurants, and served in school settings.

Families are encouraged to purchase foods naturally low in sodium such as fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide other nutrients, such as potassium, which play a role in reducing high blood pressure. Alternatives to some of the commonly consumed foods such as pizza, cold cuts, and processed chicken products may include lower sodium versions or whole food alternatives such as lean meat and whole grain/high fiber carbohydrates.  Reading food labels is key in making the best selections possible among processed foods such as bread products, breakfast cereals, and snack foods.

Source: Beth Olson, UW-Extension Nutrition Specialist


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