Overexposure to salty foods during infancy is a major factor in Americans' unhealthy relationship with sodium, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found. Parents who fed their babies starchy table foods including breakfast cereals and crackers that contain added salt are more likely to have preschoolers who gravitate toward salty foods. The New York Times reports:
"Our data would suggest that if one wants to reduce salt in the population as a whole, then it's important to start early because infants and children are very vulnerable," said Dr. Gary Beauchamp, an author of the paper and behavioral biologist at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit institute that carries out research on taste and smell. "Exactly what constitutes too much salt is somewhat of a matter of controversy. But for kids over the age of 1 and 2, what they're consuming now is well beyond what is recommended by every major health organization in the world."
Reducing the amount of salt Americans consume has been a focus of health authorities for some time. Some experts say that many adults eat twice as much salt as the recommended daily allowance calls for, and some studies have found that cutting back on salt intake could save more than 100,000 lives in the United States every year from illnesses like heart attack and stroke.
Researchers add that it's never too late to adjust a person's craving for salt. "When people are put on a lower sodium diet, they shift their preference downward and begin to like less salty things," Dr. Beauchamp told The Times.
Image: Salt shaker, via Shutterstock