This strapline may sound strange, but it could be reality for the following years to come. With the incidence of childhood obesity regularly hitting the media headlines the secondary effects so to speak are rarely mentioned. There is no question as to the emotional, physical and self-esteem impact obesity has on children, however the effect of high blood pressure or Hypertension only occasionally makes the headlines. Hypertension in childhood is linked to Hypertension in adulthood as well as increased risk for the development of Cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Whilst the cause of Hypertension in children is not absolutely clear, the impact of low physical activity and intake of high processed foods and snacks have been blamed. A recent study has found that the average intake of salt is around 8.6g/d , however comparing dietary intake relative to body weight, children have a higher intake of salt than adults. That is scary considering that the recommended intake is 6g/d but 1-2g/d only is needed for good health!
A recent survey has highlighted that most of the UK´s salt intake comes primarily from a variety of sources including table salt but the largest contributers were bacon, cheese, milk, bread and sauces. (Mhurchu C et al 2010)
A number of studies have linked the Epigenetic effect of exposure to a high salt environment, in that if a fetus is exposed to a high salt environment in utero, the child is “programmed” for a higher salt intake and Hypertension later in adult life. A low birth weight, sometimes the result of an overweight mother, is also linked to the development of Hypertension. In addition, a variant in the Angiotensiogen (AGT) gene has been linked to Hypertension. Individuals with a -6G>A variant in both copies of the gene respond better to dietary and lifestyle changes in comparison to those who inherit two copies of the G version who may do better with medication.
From an ethnic point of view, individuals from Black African ethnic background are predisposed to Hypertension. This means that particular attention should be paid to African children with a high salt intake. Hypertension affects learning and memory and therefore we should look beyond just obesity for the impact the current dietary habits will have on future generations, it affects the school success and achievement in our children as well.
My personal recommendation and tips:
1) Start reducing salt intake before getting pregnant and getting fit
2) Aim to breastfeed, children who have been breastfed have a lower incidence of Hypertension in adulthood
3) When weaning, avoid salt and adopt the low salt level for the whole family later on
4) Avoid salty snacks and processed foods as much as possible, don´t keep it in the house
5) Make your own sauces in bulk and freeze, in my next post I will give my own recipe of my basic Tomato passata which can be tweaked for an ever changing healthy meal.
6) Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as legumes
7) Eat at least two portions of oily fish per week.
8) Know what´s in your food and avoid adding salt at the table
9) Maintain a low body weight
Simonetti GD, Raio L, Surbek D, Mathias D, Frey FJ, Mohaupt MG. Salt sensitivity of children owith low birth weight.Hypertension 2008;52:625-630
He FJ, MacGregor GA.Impotantce of salt in determining Blood pressure in children.Meta-analysis of controlled trials. Hypertension 2006;48:861-869
Lande MB,Kaczorowski JM,Auinger P,Schwartz GJ,Weitzman M.Elevated blood pressure and decreased cognitive function among school-age children and adolescents in the United States.Journal of Pediatrics Dec 2003;143;6:720-724
Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Cathy Capelin, Elizabeth K Dunford, Jacqueline L Webster, Bruce C Neal, and Susan A Jebb.Sodium content of processed food in the United Kingdom:analysis of 44,000 foodspurchased by 21,000 households.American journal of Clinical Nutrition Nov 2010 .10.3945/ajcn.110.004481