Childhood Diet May Influence Blood Pressure in Adulthood

New York, NY
January 20, 1999

It's never too early to develop healthy eating habits. Reducing salt intake is a key element in a healthful diet, yet the typical American diet tends to be too high in salt. A recent study reported that salt intake during infancy and adolescence may influence whether high blood pressure develops later in life.

The study, conducted in the Netherlands, found that children who had been on low-salt diets during the first six months of their lives had lower blood pressures than youngsters who had been on normal sodium diets. When these youngsters were checked again after 15 years, the low-salt group still had lower blood pressures. While these findings suggest that a sensible salt intake in children may prevent high blood pressure in adulthood, extreme salt restriction should be avoided since this can be harmful to a child's health.

In the U.S., the salt content of infant formulas and baby foods has been reduced. Parents can foster a healthier diet in their young children and adolescents by encouraging the following steps:

  • Limit high salt snack foods such as potato chips and pretzels.
  • Limit the number of meals eaten at fast food restaurants.
  • Limit use of processed foods, including hot dogs and lunch meats such as ham and bologna.

Preventing high blood pressure is a key to good health. High blood pressure is associated with serious complications including kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. For more information and a free brochure about high blood pressure and kidney disease, contact the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010.