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AHA: Most Packaged Toddler Foods Are High in Sodium

FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 75 percent of commercial pre-packaged meals and savory snacks for toddlers are high in sodium, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, held from March 19 to 22 in New Orleans.

Joyce Maalouf, M.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues used the Gladson database to identify major brands of baby and toddler food products. Manufacturer websites and grocery stores (for private label products) were used to develop the database of nutrition information for 572 food products that were categorized according to the main ingredient and food categories. Serving sizes were converted to their Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC). A product with more than 210 mg of sodium per serving was defined as high in sodium.

The researchers found that mean sodium content of baby and toddler foods ranged from 6.4 mg/RACC in mixed grains and fruits to 284 mg/RACC in toddler meals. Over half of the toddler meals (62 percent; 47 of 76) had sodium levels in excess of 210 mg/RACC, while some contained as much as 530 mg/RAAC. Toddler meals and snacks had an average sodium density of ≥2 mg/kcal for toddler meals and snacks.

"Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child's diet, because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods may develop early in life," Maalouf said in a statement. "The less sodium in an infant's or toddler's diet, the less he or she may want it when older."

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