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Could Kids' Salt Intake Affect Their Weight?
Study found those who consumed more sodium also drank more sugary beverages
By Amy Norton
MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children who eat a lot of salty food also tend to down more sugary drinks -- which, in turn, might be related to their risk of obesity, a new study suggests.
The findings raise the possibility that curbing kids' salt intake could end up benefiting their waistlines, researchers report in the Dec. 10 online and January print issue of Pediatrics.
The study, of nearly 4,300 Australian children and teens, found that the more salt kids ate each day, the more fluids they drank. The same was true when the researchers zeroed in on the nearly two-thirds of kids who drank sugary beverages: For every 390 milligrams (mg) of sodium they got each day, they averaged an extra 0.6 ounces of sugar-sweetened soda, juice or other drinks.
Those liquid calories, in turn, were linked -- albeit weakly -- to the risk of obesity.
Kids who had more than one sugary drink in a day were 26 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who avoided sweetened drinks. That connection, however, weakened once the researchers factored in exercise habits.
It's not exactly surprising that kids with a taste for salty foods would also be fans of soda or other sugary drinks, according to Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
But it's not clear that extra sodium actually made kids drink more sweetened beverages, she pointed out.
"These data don't tell us anything about cause and effect," Sandon said. "We don't know that if we got kids to lower their sodium intake, they'd drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages."
One of the researchers on the study agreed. But it also can't hurt to limit your kids' access to high-sodium snacks and sugary drinks, according to Carley Grimes, a Ph.D. candidate at Deakin University in Burwood, Australia.
"As a parent, the best choice is to encourage water as a beverage and limit availability to sugary drinks," Grimes said.
As for salty foods, overindulgence can raise blood pressure, even in kids.
In general, experts recommend that adults and children get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. Yet a recent government study of U.S. children and teens found that they averaged almost 3,400 mg of sodium per day.
Americans get most of their sodium not from their kitchen salt shakers, but from processed foods and restaurant meals. So, Sandon and Grimes said, it's wise to cut down on those types of foods, and replace them with fruits, vegetables and other whole foods.