New research findings released by a UK health action group has proven that salt reduction lowers blood pressure in children.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has commented on analysis of salt reduction studies in children, published in the November edition of medical journal Hypertension. The report demonstrated that reducing children’s salt intake by half results in immediate decrease in blood pressure, and could lead to major reductions in the risk of developing stroke, heart attacks and heart failure later in life.

Jo Butten, nutritionist for CASH, said: “The UK is leading the world in making reductions in the salt content of manufactured foods and some children’s foods have had their salt content reduced, but sadly many other manufacturers are still stuffing salt into their products and marketing them to children. They need to take immediate action to reduce these unnecessary and very high salt concentrations. For parents who want to give children the best start in life, the advice is simple – don’t buy these very salty foods marketed at children, stop cooking with salt and don’t let your children add salt to their food.”

In reaction to the findings, Food and Drink Federation director of communications Julian Hunt said: “CASH has recognised that UK food manufacturers have taken the lead on salt reductions. Consumers young and old are benefiting from enormous cuts in salt in a whole range of processed foods, and industry is committed to doing more. Industry has worked very closely with the Food Standards Agency to reduce salt in foods eaten by children such as bread, breakfast cereals and soups with other products such as potato crisps and biscuits also making tremendous cuts. 

“Additionally, more and more manufacturers are helping consumers see at a glance how much salt is in their foods by putting information on the front of packs and including salt equivalence.”

Furthermore, the consensus added that higher blood pressure in childhood transfers to adulthood, and that anything that lowers blood pressure in children is likely to reduce the number of people developing high blood pressure later in life.

Dr Feng He, from the Blood Pressure Unit of St Georges University of London, who carried out the meta-analysis, said: “We already know that a modest reduction of salt intake in adults causes very worthwhile falls in blood pressure but this new research now strongly supports the same policy of salt reduction in children. Children who eat less salt are likely to have a much lower risk of developing high blood pressure when they grow up and this spells out the potential for large reductions in strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, the commonest causes of death and disability worldwide.”