Hold the Salt, Teens

Teen sodium intake linked to high body fat and inflammation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It is well known that eating excess calories can lead teens to gain weight, but weight may also be related to how much salt is in a teen's diet.

A recent study found that teens who consumed a lot of sodium were more likely to have higher body fat and weigh more than those with lower sodium intake.

Even when total calories and drinking sodas were taken into account, the teens eating a lot of salt were heavier.

Nearly all of the teens who participated in the study were also getting more sodium than what the American Heart Association recommends.

"Reduce sodium in teens' diets."

The study, led by Haidong Zhu, MD, PhD, of the Georgia Prevention Center at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health, looked at whether eating a lot of sodium was related to weight and inflammation in teens.

The participants of the study included 766 healthy white and black teens, aged 14 to 18.

The researchers asked the teens about their diets each day for a week in order to estimate the amount of sodium they consumed. Then, the researchers measured the teens' body fat percentage as well as their abdominal fat.

The teens also provided blood samples used to measure several hormones and proteins that can provide insight into whether the participants' had inflammation.

Among all the participants, the average amount of sodium consumed each day was about 3280 mg. The recommended intake for teens is 1500 mg per day, which 97 percent of the study participants exceeded.

Then the researchers compared the teens' sodium intake to the various other measurements they had taken.

They found several links between sodium intake and body characteristics or measurements. The more sodium the teens consumed, the higher their weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, fat mass and abdominal fat was.

The link between higher weight and fat with higher sodium intake existed even when the researchers adjusted their findings to account for differences in the teens' caloric intake and consumption of sugary drinks.

The researchers also found that higher consumption of sodium in the teens was linked to higher levels of the hormone leptin and higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-a. 

Leptin is a hormone that helps regulate appetite by telling a person that they are no longer hungry. Higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-a indicate the presence of inflammation in a person's body.

Inflammation has been linked to a wide range of medical conditions.

"The [average] sodium consumption of our adolescents is as high as that of adults and more than twice the daily intake recommended by the American Heart Association," the authors wrote.

They concluded that these high levels of sodium are linked to having more fat and to having more inflammation.

The study was published February 3 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 7, 2014
Last Updated:
February 7, 2014