Teens could be shaking their way to future health costs

By Amanda Hanson - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - New research shows teens who take in large amounts of salt in their diet are setting themselves up for problems later in life.

"It's a habit we all get into. That's the first thing we do we pick up the salt shaker to add it to our french fries," says Dawn Ragsdale, the Child Nutrition Director with the Nettleton School District. She says when it comes to teens...they eat what they want. "They're not worried about it at this point, and whatever they really like and what tastes good that's what they want to eat," says Ragsdale.

while french fries and cheese-burgers are obviously high in salt, Doctor Shane Speights, Assistant Professor of Medicine at AHEC, says the biggest problem are the products you might not think about.

"It's all the hidden salt you don't realize you're taking in. Depending on the type of soda pop you take in, obviously soda being sodium you can increase your salt intake," says Speights.

Like many processed foods, while something may appear healthy, many products use sodium additives to preserve it, sky rocketing the sodium count. Speights says the biggest at risk population are teens.

"They don't have their parents packing their lunch, they can decide 'hey, I just want to have a bag of chips or a coke.' A lot of times they don't recognize the diet harms they're doing to themselves," says Speights, which could lead to heart disease, high blood pressure or stroke later in life. He says with the increase in childhood obesity, so has the increase of high blood pressure in children. "Family doctors even around the area are seeing disease they we normally don't see except for in adults due to dietary changes, taking in high sugar and salt," says Speights.

As for Ragsdale, she says the Nettleton School District has taken steps to limit salt.

"Elementary, middle school, or intermediate do not get an option of a salt shaker, they're available at high school and junior high just at the cash register. So they either use it right away or don't use it and a lot of kids don't use it," says Ragsdale.

So take your food with a grain of salt. Speights says a recent study suggests if we change the American diet to a low sodium one, it could lead to billions of savings in healthcare dollars over the long haul.

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