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Warning over children's salt consumption

More than a third of children's salt consumption is from breads and cereals, researchers have found.

A bacon sandwich Credit: PA Wire

Analysis of young people's diets found that they eat an "unhealthy amount of salt on a daily basis". 36% of this salt comes from cereal and bread-based products, according to the new research.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that many children are exceeding the recommended intake of salt on a daily basis.

Rising blood pressure in kids linked to salt in food

The recommended daily intake is not more than 1,500 milligrams of salt. Credit: PA

A pattern of rising blood pressure among children and young teenagers could be linked to salt, research has suggested.

Scientists from America's prestigious Harvard Medical School found that over the course of a decade, elevated blood pressure became 27% more common in young people aged eight to 17.

Sodium from salt-laden foods is known to be linked to high blood pressure.

A key finding from the study was that children with the greatest sodium intake were 36% more at risk of raised blood pressure than those with the lowest.

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Christmas Day sugar intake is 32 teaspoons

More than half of half of people said they would follow dinner with Christmas pudding, with 23 per cent planning to have dollop of cream. Between meals, 40 per cent said they snacked on nuts and 30 per cent on crisps, both of which are often contain added salt.

A third of people will eat at least one mince pie, and over half enjoy chocolates throughout the day. Combined with overindulgence at mealtimes, sweet snacks bring the average person's Christmas day sugar intake to the equivalent of 32 teaspoons.

Full English followed by Turkey on Christmas Day

A full English breakfast will be eaten by more than one in 10 on Christmas morning, while 14 per cent will instead choose a bacon sandwich.

The average fried breakfast contains around 1,200 calories, and a bacon sandwich with brown sauce can contain more than half an adult's recommended daily salt allowance.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed said they eat a traditional turkey dinner on 25 December. The typical Christmas meal, including trimmings, adds up to 660 calories.

Same fat as a 'pack of lard' eaten on Christmas day

Christmas lunch is not the only indulgence over the festive period. Credit: Davis Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The British Heart foundation has warned that the average person in Britain could consume the equivalent of half a pack of lard in saturated fat, and as much salt as would be found in 50 packets of crisps on Christmas Day.

In a survey, the charity asked 2,000 people who celebrate Christmas what they eat and drink over the festive period. For many people, the Christmas indulgence starts before the turkey is even in the oven, it found.

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Government to tackle salt reduction issues

We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

That is why we are taking action through the Responsibility Deal to help reduce the salt in peoples' diets.

And we are looking at clearer salt labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front of pack labelling.

We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field.

– A Department of Health spokesman

How much salt do we need?

  • Our daily intake of salt should be less than 6g (2.4g sodium) – we actually need much less than this.
  • Most people in the UK currently consume more than 6g, but there are simple ways to cut down on our intake.
  • Currently, 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods like ready meals, cheese, bread, biscuits and processed meats.
  • The remaining 25% is added during cooking or at the table.

Stomach cancer kills nearly 5000 people every year

  • Each year in the UK around 7,500 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed and almost 5,000 people die from the disease.
  • Cutting salt intake to six grams a day could prevent 1,050 of these cases, according to the WCRF.
  • Excess salt is also linked to high blood pressure, the main cause of strokes and a significant cause of heart disease, as well as osteoporosis and kidney disease.

Cancer charities: 'Better food labelling would help consumers'

Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.

Because around three-quarters of the salt we consume is already in processed food when we buy it, WCRF would like to see traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink packaging to give clear guidance on the levels of salt as well as sugar, fat and saturated fat.

– Kate Mendoza, head of information, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
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