Combo of overweight, high sodium intake speeds cell aging in teens

Overweight or obese teenagers who eat lots of salty foods may show signs of faster cell aging, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014.

"Lowering , especially if you are or obese, may slow down the cellular aging process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease," said Haidong Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga.

Previous research found that protective ends on chromosomes (telomeres) naturally shorten with age, but the process is accelerated by smoking, lack of physical activity and high body fat. The current study is the first to examine the impact of sodium intake on telomere length.

In the study, 766 people 14-18 years old were divided into the lowest or highest half of reported sodium intake. Low-intake teens consumed an average 2,388 mg/day, compared with 4,142 mg/day in the high-intake group. Both groups consumed far more than the 1,500 mg/day maximum (about 2/3 teaspoon of salt) recommended by the American Heart Association.

After adjusting for several factors that influence telomere length, researchers found:

  • In overweight/obese teens, telomeres were significantly shorter with high-sodium intake (T/S ratio of 1.24 vs. 1.32). T/S ratios are the ratio of the length of the telomere to the length of a single gene.
  • In normal weight teens, telomeres were not significantly different with high-sodium intake (T/S ratio of 1.29 vs. 1.30).

"Even in these relatively healthy young people, we can already see the effect of high sodium intake, suggesting that high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging," Zhu said.

Obesity is associated with high levels of inflammation—which also hastens telomere shortening—and increases sensitivity to salt, which may help explain why higher sodium intake had a greater effect in that group.

"Lowering sodium intake may be an easier first step than losing weight for overweight young people who want to lower their risk of heart disease," Zhu said. "The majority of sodium in the diet comes from processed foods, so parents can help by cooking fresh meals more often and by offering fresh fruit rather than potato chips for a snack."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Spices and herbs intervention helps adults reduce salt intake

Mar 19, 2014

Teaching people how to flavor food with spices and herbs is considerably more effective at lowering salt intake than having them do it on their own, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology ...

Bread, cereal drive UK children's high salt diet

Mar 10, 2014

Children in London eat an unhealthy amount of salt on a daily basis—with much of it coming from breads and cereals, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Recommended for you

Sense of smell fades with age

12 hours ago

Food can be one of those unexpected flash points of late life. Grandma may say she's never hungry or that the only things that taste good are salty foods such as French fries. Grandpa may lose control over his sweet tooth, ...

Report: Retaliation for complaints common at VA

14 hours ago

A report by a private government watchdog says medical professionals across the country have pointed out problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, only to suffer retaliation from supervisors and other high-ranking officials.

User comments