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Teen Health

Cutting Salt as a Teen May Help Heart Later

Half a Teaspoon Less Salt a Day May Prevent 120,000 Deaths, 64,000 Heart Attacks by Age 50, Researchers Say
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Researchers Call for Salt Reduction in Processed Foods

Even though only about 5% of our daily salt intake is sprinkled during cooking, Bibbins-Domingo says parents can do their part by preparing fresh foods -- with little to no salt added - whenever possible.

But no real progress will be made until food manufacturers stop putting so much salt into processed foods, Bibbins-Domingo says.

She said she would like to see a program modeled after the British efforts.

"In 2003, the federal agency in the U.K. started working with food companies to lower the salt content in 75 products. The idea was to do it gradually," and it resulted in a 10% reduction in salt intake in the United Kingdom over four years, she says.

Physiological studies suggest that if you cut back on salt gradually, you begin to prefer less salt in your food, she says. "Things that used to taste normal start to taste salty," Bibbins-Domingo says.

In the U.S., the New York City Department of Health is leading the effort to regulate salt in prepared foods, and a number of major companies like Kraft and Starbucks have signed on, she says.

Bibbins-Domingo says she doesn't think salt-reduction efforts will work in the U.S. "unless there is some regulation."

Mandatory efforts are opposed by the Salt Institute, a trade association representing the salt industry.

“Salt is an essential nutrient. Need for salt varies based on multiple factors, including genetics, health status, overall diet, activity level, exercise, and climate, so requirements vary from individual to individual and from day to day. Population-wide sodium reduction strategies are reckless and not based on the whole body of science,” Salt Institute President Lori Roman said in a news release after the Institute of Medicine called for mandatory sodium reductions earlier this year.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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