Over 90% of school-age children in the United States are consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium, with 10 common food types contributing to over 40% of the total sodium consumed by children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study results were published in a new CDC Vital Signs report.

In this research as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2,375 children ages 6–18 were interviewed from 2009–2010 and asked to recall their dietary habits from the previous 24 hours. Food categories were calculated based on similarity in use and nutrient content and ranked based on their percentage contribution to total sodium intake among this age group.

From the analysis, the mean daily sodium consumption was 3,279mg, with mean sodium density at 1,638mg sodium/1,000kcal. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend than children consume <2,300mg/day. Total sodium intake was highest among high school-aged children and males and lowest among children with family income ≤185% of the federal poverty level who qualified for reduced-price school meals. The consumption did not vary by race/ethnicity or weight status.

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Approximately 43% of sodium was consumed from foods in the following categories: pizza, yeast bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, savory snacks (eg, chips, pretzels, and popcorn), sandwiches, cheese, chicken patties, nuggets, and tenders, pasta mixed dishes (including spaghetti with meat sauce but excluding macaroni and cheese), Mexican-mixed dishes, and soups. About 65% of sodium consumed was from foods or ingredients obtained from a store, 13% from fast food/pizza restaurants, 4.9% from other restaurants, 9.1% from the school cafeteria, and 7.4% from other sources. A greater portion of sodium intake came from fast food/pizza restaurants among high-school aged participants vs. the elementary and middle-school aged groups. The greater amount of sodium consumption occurred during dinner (39.2%) vs. 29.5% at lunch, 16.4% from snacks, and 14.9% from breakfast in all age groups.

Because high sodium intake in childhood could lead to an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the future, reducing sodium intake in children is necessary to prevent later-life health conditions such as heart attack and stroke, the CDC urges.

For more information visit CDC.gov.