WHO addresses sodium intake in children

by Jeff Gelski
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GENEVA — The World Health Organization gave recommendations for sodium intake in children for the first time while reaffirming its sodium recommendations for adults in guidelines issued Jan. 31.

The WHO, based in Geneva, said adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, per day. In a 2007 report on preventing cardiovascular disease, the WHO encouraged people to consume less than 5 grams of salt per day.

The WHO on Jan. 31 said evidence shows reducing sodium intake significantly reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in both adults and children. The WHO said the recommended maximum level of 2,000 mg of sodium per day in adults should be adjusted downward for children (age 2 to 15) based on the energy requirements of children relative to those of adults.

Decreasing sodium intake may reduce blood pressure and the risk of associated non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to the WHO.

“Elevated blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke — the No. 1 cause of death and disability globally,” said Francesco Branca, director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. “These guidelines also make recommendations for children over the age of 2. This is critical because children with elevated blood pressure often become adults with elevated blood pressure.”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg per day and also less than 1,500 mg among people who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

The WHO on Jan. 31 also gave potassium recommendations. The WHO suggests an intake of at least 3,510 mg per day for adults. The potassium intake for children also should be adjusted downward based on energy requirements. The WHO did not address the optimal ratio of sodium to potassium.

“However, if an individual consumes the amount of sodium recommended in this guideline and the amount of potassium recommended in the WHO guideline on potassium intake, the ratio of sodium to potassium would be approximately one to one, which is considered beneficial for health,” the WHO said.

The WHO also is updating guidelines on the intake of fats and sugars.
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