A new study published in the journal of pediatrics has confirmed the link between salt intake and obesity. The study examined the salt consuming habits of 766 teens. Ninety-seven percent exceeded the daily recommended amount and consumed more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. The teens also had a high level of an inflammatory protein, called tumor necrosis factor alpha, which is secreted by immune cells and leptin a hormone produced by fat cells. Normally leptin suppresses appetite and burns fat, but if present at chronically high levels it has the opposite effect.
“The majority of studies in humans show the more food you eat, the more salt you consume, the fatter you are,” said Dr. Haidong Zhu, molecular geneticist at the Medical College of Georgia and Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University.
“Our study adjusted for what these young people ate and drank and there was still a correlation between salt intake and obesity,” Zhu said.
“Losing weight is difficult, but hopefully more people can be successful at reducing their sodium intake,” said Zhu, the study’s corresponding author.
“We hope these findings will reinforce for parents and pediatricians alike that daily decisions about how much salt children consume can set the stage for fatness, chronic inflammation and a host of associated diseases like hypertension and diabetes,” said study co-author Dr. Gregory Harshfield, Director of the Georgia Prevention Center at the GRU institute.
“Obesity has a lot of contributing factors, including physical inactivity,” Zhu said. “We think that high sodium intake could be one of those factors.”
Adolescents are encouraged to choose fresh fruits and vegetables over French fries and processed meats and snacks.
H. Zhu, N. K. Pollock, I. Kotak, B. Gutin, X. Wang, J. Bhagatwala, S. Parikh, G. A. Harshfield, Y. Dong. Dietary Sodium, Adiposity, and Inflammation in Healthy Adolescents. PEDIATRICS, 2014; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-1794