WHO guideline limits sodium for kids

February 5, 2013

Limiting salt and boosting potassium in children’s diets will reduce the risks of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke in future populations, says a WHO report.

Limiting salt and boosting potassium in children’s diets will reduce the risks of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke in future populations, says a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

An international group of experts reached consensus on the new WHO sodium intake guideline after examining evidence from epidemiologic literature on the relationship between sodium and blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and coronary heart disease. Elevated blood pressure during childhood is associated with cardiovascular disease in children and a higher risk for hypertension and related morbidities in adulthood.

WHO recommends that to reduce blood pressure and the associated risks, adults aged 16 years and older should limit daily intake of sodium from all sources to less than 2,000 mg per day.

For children aged 2 to 15 years, the maximum level of sodium per day should be adjusted downward based on a child’s age and the energy requirements of children relative to adults from the adult-recommended intake of less than 2,000 mg daily.

WHO also recommends that to lower blood pressure, adults and children should increase consumption of potassium-rich foods such as beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. According to its potassium intake guideline, adults should consume 3,510 mg of potassium per day; for children, the recommended intake should be adjusted downward based on the energy requirements of children compared with adults.

The sodium guideline applies to all persons with or without hypertension except for children aged younger than 2 years, persons with chronic illnesses, those taking certain medications, or those who require physician-supervised diets.

Reducing dietary sodium and increasing potassium intake to lower blood pressure could potentially reduce the human and social effect of cardiovascular diseases on global public health and health care costs, said the researchers.