The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a study in the journal Paediatrics revealing that pre-packaged meals and snacks for toddlers in the US contain high levels of salt or sugar in excess of recommendations set by the Institute of Medicine.
The CDC warns about possible adverse health effects as it is estimated that 79% of children consume sodium at excess levels resulting in an increased risk for high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Excess sugar and salt intake can increase the risk of obesity and is associated with altered taste preferences in adulthood, making the change to a healthy life style difficult. In the US, more than a third of children and adolescents are obese.
The researchers used a 2012 US nutrient database to analyze the sodium and sugar content of 1,074 commercial foods for infants and toddlers. The analysis included pre-packaged dinners such as macaroni cheese and mini hot dogs, snacks, fruits, vegetables, dry cereals, juices and desserts.
Their research findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that 72% of the pre-packaged toddler meals assessed were high in sodium, containing an average of 361 milligrams (mg) per serving. In a similar manner dry fruit-based snacks included in the study contained an average of 60 g of sugar per portion. Sugar was a significant source of calories accounting for 47% of calories among mixed grains and fruit and 35% of calories in dairy-based desserts.
The recommendations set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) advise that toddlers should consume no more than 210 mg of sodium per food serving and that children should consume no more than 35% of calories from sugar in each food portion.
“Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content. Pediatricians should advise parents to look carefully at labels when selecting commercial toddler foods and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts and juice drinks,” said Mary Cogswell, of the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sodium and sugar in complementary infant and toddler foods sold in the United States, Mary Cogswell, et al., Pediatrics, doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3251, published online 2 February 2015, abstract.