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Salt intake in children and its consequences on blood pressure

Sodium is the most abundant extracellular cation and therefore pivotal in determining fluid balance. At the beginning of life, a positive sodium balance is needed to grow. Newborns and preterm infants tend to lose sodium via their kidneys and therefore need adequate sodium intake. Among older children and adults, however, excessive salt intake leads to volume expansion and arterial hypertension. Children who are overweight, born preterm, or small for gestational age and African American children are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure due to a high salt intake because they are more likely to be salt sensitive. In the developed world, salt intake is generally above the recommended intake also among children. Although a positive sodium balance is needed for growth during the first year of life, in older children, a sodium- poor diet seems to have the same cardiovascular protective effects as among adults. This is relevant, since 1): a blood pressure tracking phenomenon was recognized 2); the development of taste preferences is important during childhood; and 3) salt intake is often associated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (predisposing children to weight gain).

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A. G. Sebastiano
Mario G. Bianchetti
Prof. Dr. med. Giacomo D. Simonetti, Istituto pediatrico della Svizzera Italiana, Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale, Bellinzona & Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano,