Category Archives: sodium

90% of children in the United States are eating too much salt!

?????????????????????????????????????More news about the over consumption of salt here in the United States … and it’s definitely not what we want to hear.

American kids are eating far too much salt, mostly from processed foods sold in stores, putting them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, federal health officials said last week.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 90 percent of American children ages 6 to 18 consume too much sodium daily.

Those children eat an average of about 3,300 mg of sodium daily even before salt is added at the table, according to the CDC study based on national surveys in 2009 and 2010. That exceeds dietary guidelines calling for less than 2,300 mg per day.

The CDC noted that one in six young Americans already has elevated blood pressure – a condition closely linked to high sodium intake and obesity that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The report found that 43 percent of the sodium came from 10 popular types of foods, including pizza, sandwiches like cheeseburgers, cold cuts and cured meats, pasta with sauce, cheese, salty snacks like potato chips, chicken nuggets and patties, tacos and burritos, bread and soup.

“Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the salt shaker,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems.”

Dinner was the largest single source of sodium, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the daily intake, the study found.

The report said 65 percent of the sodium intake came from foods purchased in stores, with most of the sodium already in the products when purchased. Fast food restaurants including pizza places accounted for another 13 percent, the CDC said.

Meals offered at school accounted for 9 percent of total sodium consumption. Teenagers ate more sodium than younger children, according to the study that drew from interviews with more than 2,000 school-aged children.

The study found a need to reduce sodium “across multiple foods, venues and eating occasions,” the CDC researchers said. In particular, processed foods should have less sodium, the researchers said, citing efforts in Britain that reduced total sodium consumption
by 15 percent over seven years.

This new information is so concerning for future generations of Americans. FoodFacts.com wants to emphasize that this report echos the idea that the majority of sodium in our diets does not come from the salt shakers on our kitchen tables. Instead, sodium is coming from the processed foods on our grocery shelves, restaurants and fast food restaurants. Our kids are not strangers to any of those sources. And the list detailed here is pretty eye-opening. While we can’t confine our kids to our kitchens, we can commit to cooking more fresh, healthy foods in our homes and making them readily available to our children. Our kids’ healthy futures depend on it.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/09/09/in-10-us-children-eat-too-much-salt-says-cdc/

Can high salt intake be related to the risk for multiple sclerosis?

World Multiple Sclerosis DaySalt. It seems like it’s always in the news. Too much is unhealthy. Too little might be unhealthy. The majority of our sodium intake is coming from the processed foods in our grocery stores, not from the salt shakers in our kitchens. Certain food products are just about guaranteed to contain more sodium than others. The list goes on. But no matter how the latest news is reported, a few basic ideas remain consistent. We need sodium in our diets to help our bodies function properly, but too much is unhealthy — and the majority of us are getting much too much. And much too much can result in things like high blood pressure and the buildup of fluid in people with congestive heart failure and kidney disease. But are there any other health problems that can be linked to our excessive salt habit?

A novel study has unveiled that there might be an association between salt consumption and multiple sclerosis (MS) risk.

Currently, multiple sclerosis is considered to be an autoimmune disease. Previous studies have indicated that salt may alter the autoimmune disease. Keeping that factor in mind, researchers carried out the study to know if salt has a direct effect on the course of the disease.

The study was of observational nature. For the study, participants with relapsing-remitting MS were recruited and were divided into two groups. The first group had 70 patients. For two years in the follow-up period, clinical, radiology and sodium intake data was gathered.

For a year after enrolment, blood and urine samples were taken. Researchers measured level of salt and creatinine, a marker of inflammatory activity, in urine samples. Other things measured were serum sodium and vitamin D levels, as low level of it has been linked with MS.

The second group had 52 volunteers. Urine samples were collected and were assessed as per the same procedure used in the first group. Researchers found that volunteers who had high salt intake were four times more like to have severe MS symptoms.

Researchers considered the factors like age, gender, disease duration, smoking status, vitamin D levels, body mass index and treatment. When comparison was done on individual basis, people having moderate or high salt were found to witness around three times more progression in the systems and four times more likely to experience exacerbating symptoms.
“Findings suggest further research into whether dietary salt reduction could ease MS symptoms or slow the progression of the disease might now be warranted”, affirmed researchers.

FoodFacts.com can’t help but mention the onslaught of research we’ve seen lately revealing new insights into our food and ingredient consumption. This particular study showing a link between sodium and the progression of of multiple sclerosis symptoms is eye-opening and very unexpected. As we learn more about the unfortunate effects of excessive sodium consumption, we are encouraged by the idea that the preparation of fresh foods, in our own kitchens contributes to our health and well being. Just another reason to avoid the processed foods that contain too many and too much of a long list of things that don’t contribute to our health.

http://newsmaine.net/20449-high-salt-intake-may-be-linked-increased-ms-disease-activity-study

When it comes to salt, too little may be just as bad as too much

iStock_000014891232SmallWe know that high levels of sodium in our food supply are a serious problem. As also know that most of the sodium we consume daily isn’t coming from the salt shakers on our kitchen tables. Instead sodium resides in the myriad of processed foods residing on our grocery store shelves. High salt intake is in the news often with reports of a variety of health problems that can result from a high-sodium diet. But now, it appears that too little daily sodium might be bad for us too.

If the body takes in too much salt, there is a higher risk of hypertension, kidney problems, heart failure, stroke, and heart attacks. In a study focused on the effects of salt on blood pressure, nutritionists found out that those with moderate salt intake did not benefit from lessening their salt consumption as much as those who have high salt intake did.

In another study that focused on heart disease and death, researchers concluded that those with extremely low salt diets are not necessarily healthier. In fact, they said that extremely low salt intake can lead to health hazards.

A third study, however, said that there is a connection between less salt intake and better health.

All three studies were published on the August 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is recommended that a person consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, TIME reports. To have an idea, a teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium.

One of the things that all three studies have in common is that they all confirm that too much salt is indeed bad for the body.

New York Daily News reports that the average daily consumption of salt worldwide is about 7.5 to 15.0 grams, which translates to three to six grams of sodium. The number is well above the limit of 1.5 to 2.4 grams of sodium that is recommended by different organizations.

Dr. Andrew Mente of the McMaster University in Ontario and the chief author of the blood pressure study said:

“If people are eating a very high level of sodium and they reduce their intake, you get a large reduction in blood pressure. But if you’re eating moderate level of sodium—about what most North Americans eat—and you reduce it to a lower level, you’re not really getting much in return as far as blood pressure reduction is concerned.”

With the debate on salt still ongoing, one thing is for sure. The average salt intake worldwide is more than the recommended amount, and it should be changed. Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Politcy at Tufts University said:

“The big picture is that high sodium is bad and should be reversed, and there’s just some controversy over how low you should go. Whether it should be 2 grams or 1.5 grams or 2.5 grams per day, that’s all theory. Right now it’s close to 4 grams per day. Let’s get it down below 3, and the we can argue how low it should go. But right now it’s clearly way too high.”

FoodFacts.com understands that the debate over the “perfect” amount of sodium we should consume daily may not yet be agreed upon by the experts. And while we understand the importance of that debate – especially in light of these new studies – we strongly believe and advocate for the preparation of fresh, whole foods at home in our own kitchens. The less we rely on processed products, the easier it will be for all of us to achieve a perfect balance of sodium in our daily diets.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1416601/salt-debate-too-little-salt-is-bad-too/#rQYF8IxstfDLzbU4.99

Too much salt may spell heart disease for diabetics

iStock_000030596950SmallDiabetes rates have soared in recent decades. For those who suffer with the disease, dietary vigilance becomes a way of life. It’s a condition that requires constant attention in order to maintain health and well-being. Diabetes can lead to any number of serious health problems, including heart disease.

Many have come to relate diabetes with sugar. Diabetics have to be careful of sugar and carbohydrate consumption. But it’s not only sugar that raises alarms for people with diabetes. Eating a high-salt diet may double the risk of developing heart disease in people with diabetes, according to a new study from Japan.

For any person, too much salt in the diet can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for developing heart disease. To assess how people with diabetes fare in relation to the salt in their diet, the researchers surveyed nearly 1,600 diabetic patients, ages 40 and 70, from across Japan. The study participants answered questions about their diets, including their sodium intake, and were followed for eight years.

Participants with the highest sodium intake (about 6,000 milligrams per day, on average) were twice as likely to develop heart disease over the study period than those with the lowest sodium intake (about 2,800 milligrams per day, on average), the researchers found. Among the 359 people with the highest sodium intake, 41 developed heart disease, compared with 23 of the 354 people with lowest sodium intake. [4 Tips for Reducing Sodium]

“To reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, it is important for people who have Type 2 diabetes to improve their blood sugar control as well as watch their diet,” study researcher Chika Horikawa, of the University of Niigata Prefecture in Japan, said in a statement.

The researchers adjusted the results for other factors that may contribute to people’s heart disease risk, such as their alcohol consumption and total calorie intake, according to the study published today (July 22) in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The findings add to the evidence that consuming less salt could help prevent dangerous complications from diabetes, the researchers said.

The negative effects of salt on blood pressure and heart health has long been established. Even for healthy, young people, dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. A limit of 1,500 mg is recommended for groups at increased risk of heart disease, including African-Americans, people older than 51, and people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes.

The average American takes in about 3,300 mg of sodium per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Main sources of salt in people’s diet include salt used in cooking and sodium naturally found in meat, vegetables and dairy, as well as processed foods, which have high levels of sodium.

People with Type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health problems if left untreated, and the condition is a risk factor for heart disease. More than 29 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, and another 86 million have high blood sugar levels and could progress to having diabetes, according to the CDC.

In the study, the researchers also found the effects of a high-sodium diet were worsened by poor blood sugar control. But they didn’t find a link between high-salt diet and other complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease or vision problems, or dying.

Sugar and salt. Sugar and salt. It seems we hear disturbing news about either or both more and more consistently. FoodFacts.com wants to remind everyone in our community that Americans consume far too much of each of them on a daily basis. And most importantly, we want to remind everyone that the bulk of the sugar and salt we are consuming does not come from the sugar bowls and salt shakers in our kitchens. Rather, they come from the copious amounts of processed foods it becomes more and more difficult for average consumers to avoid on a daily basis. This research is one more reason to be as conscious as we possibly can be about the quality and content of the foods we consume.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/23/high-salt-diet-may-double-diabetics-heart-disease-risk/

How about some chicken with your salt? While concerns about salt intake are on the rise, so is the sodium content of KFC meals

kfc-chicken-mealWe consume too much sodium. That’s not exactly big news. We hear about it fairly consistently. You would think that with all that news, it might make sense to find that food manufacturers and fast food chains are lowering the amount of sodium in their products and menu items. Not so, apparently.

With an increased concern about the role high sodium levels play in high blood pressure, kidney disease and other health issues, a number of restaurant chains have been attempting to cut back on the salt in recent years. A new review of meals from 17 of the nation’s most popular fast food and family eateries shows that most chains are slowly reducing the amounts of sodium in their food (though it’s still very high), while a small number of others have actually gone the other direction.

A new survey from the Center for Science in the Public Interest looks at a total of 136 meals from the 17 restaurant chains to see whether the sodium levels in those meals changed between 2009 and 2013.

While there is no hard-and-fast number on recommended sodium intake, both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control say that 1,500mg a day is a good number for those looking to avoid high blood pressure.

The CSPI study found that 79% of the adult meals surveyed were still above that 1,500mg line, with seven meals — mostly from family restaurants — containing more than three days’ worth of sodium.

In general, sodium levels have fallen, but not by much. According to the CSPI, the overall sodium reduction between 2009 and 2013 was only 6%, or 1.5% per year. Kids’ meals only dropped by 2.6% during the four-year period, and much of that was due to restaurants replacing french fries with fruit options.

The biggest names in fast food are also responsible for the biggest reductions in sodium. All of the meals surveyed at Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell demonstrated some level of sodium reduction.

Of that group, Subway’s efforts to cut salt were the most effective, reducing sodium levels nearly 28%, followed by Burger King at 27%. BK’s cheeseburger kids’ meal had the most substantial decrease in sodium (44%), going from 1,200mg to 840mg.

On the opposite end of the survey are those popular eateries where sodium levels actually went up.

While Wendy’s and Sonic were each able to reduce the sodium on 50% of their surveyed meals, increases in other menu items resulted in a net increases in sodium of 2.7% and 1.3%, respectively.

But that was nothing compared to KFC, which only reduced sodium on 14% of one of its seven meals in the CSPI survey. While the reduction for that particular meal was significant (22%), four of the six other meals had double-digit percentage increases in sodium, resulting in a whopping 12.4% net sodium increase for the chicken chain.

The biggest single meal sodium increase also came from KFC, where the kids’ meal with a grilled chicken drumstick, corn on the cob, string cheese, and Capri Sun juice drink resulted in a 52% increase from the 2009 version of the meal. The not-horrible news is that the sodium level for this meal is still under the 1,200mg daily intake figure recommended for children.

The FDA puts no limits on sodium content in food, which some public health advocates believe is a mistake. The CSPI points to the restaurant industry’s slow and inconsistent efforts to reduce sodium as evidence that regulation is needed.

“For far too long, the FDA has relied on a voluntary, wait-and-see approach when it comes to reducing sodium in packaged and restaurant food,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “If chains like KFC, Jack in the Box, and Red Lobster are actually raising sodium levels in some meals, FDA’s current approach clearly isn’t working.”

According to this fascinating survey, You can consume an entire day’s worth of sodium in one KFC fast food meal. That’s just too much for FoodFacts.com. And it should be too much for millions of consumers as well. We’re not exactly sure how many of those millions think to find out about the sodium content of their food choices at KFC before they sit down for their meal. We are pretty certain that all of them leave much thirstier than they were before they walked through the doors — not to mention a higher risk for a whole host of health issues.

http://consumerist.com/2014/07/02/while-other-restaurant-chains-cut-down-on-sodium-kfc-meals-have-been-getting-saltier/

Too much salt = aging cells in obese teens

salt.jpgWe’re always hearing about the negative effects of high salt intake. Too much sodium in our diets has been linked to higher risk of stroke, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Yet, it’s difficult for many people to avoid. Considering the idea that most of the sodium we consume is as a result of processed foods and not the salt shakers at our kitchen tables, the only way we can confidently reduce our sodium intake is to prepare our meals at home from scratch. And that’s something that becomes even more challenging when we focus on teenagers, who are out and about and generally eat their way through the day outside of our kitchens. Concerns about what high levels of sodium mean for overweight and obese teens are just now coming to light.

In a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014, researchers found that overweight teenagers who consume too much salt exhibit signs of faster cell aging.

In their study, the researchers divided 766 subjects, who were between 14 and 18-years old, into two groups based on whether they consume more than 4,100 mg of salt a day or less than 2,400 mg of salt a day. The subjects in both groups notably consume more than the American Heart Association’s recommended 1,500 mg of salt serving per day.

The researchers observed that the protective ends of the chromosome called telomeres, which naturally shorten with age, were much shorter in overweight and obese subjects with high salt intake but not in teens with normal weight but high salt intake.

“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,” said study lead author Haidong Zhu, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.

Zhu said that overweight teenagers who want to reduce their risk of heart disease should consider reducing their salt intake and this may even be easier than losing weight.

“Lowering sodium intake, especially if you are overweight or obese, may slow down the cellular aging process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease,” Zhu said. “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 also pointed out that most of the salt in the diet comes from processed food and urged parents to prepare fresh and healthier foods more often.

“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,” Zhu said.

Encouraging teens to eat real food can be a challenge. Certainly it’s good advice to cook fresh meals as often as possible. Yet, even parents who prepare meals from scratch every day face the issue that teenagers are spending less time in the home than they did when they were younger. FoodFacts.com likes the idea of choosing a variety of healthier snacks for the home, in hopes of finding a few that teens can seek out when they’re outside the home. It may help us help them to make healthier choices when we’re not there to guide them.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/4648/20140321/high-intake-of-salt-in-obese-teens-causes-cells-to-age-faster-study.htm

Campbell’s Soup and the American Heart Association Accused of Misleading Consumers

Heart Check Certification is given to a variety of products by the American Heart Association as a consumer guide to “heart-healthy” foods. Products have to qualify to receive the certification, so the general assumption among consumers seeing that Heart Check certification is that the product bearing the symbol is better for you than one that doesn’t.

The AHA and Campbell’s soup are being sued for misleading consumers, stating that their “Healthy Request” line of soup products are not as healthy as the Heart Check symbol is leading people to believe. In order for these products to carry the Heart Check certification, Campbell’s had to pay a fee to the AHA and meet specific nutritional criteria. The products must contain 480 milligrams of sodium or less per serving (as well as other cut off levels for saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and other nutrient criteria deemed by the AHA).

Campbell’s “Healthy Request” soups meet these criteria. Those filing the lawsuit however, claim that the AHA’s sodium cut-off is not consistent with its recommendations to limit daily sodium intake.

A single serving of Campbell’s “Healthy Request” condensed chicken noodle soup for example has 410 milligrams of sodium. That’s obviously within the AHA criteria, so what’s the problem?

The serving size.

There are actually 2.5 servings of the soup in each can. One can contains over 1,000 mg. of sodium which is over two-thirds of the 1500 milligrams the AHA recommends for daily sodium intake.

The class action lawsuit is acknowledging the fact that the typical consumer isn’t going to eat a half can of soup for lunch. They’re more likely to consume the entire can. Campbell’s and the AHA can argue that the serving size doesn’t contain the maximum of 480 mg of sodium, but consumers are ingesting much more than that whenever they eat the entire product. And that’s what makes the certification misleading. The lawsuit seeks to change the soup-can labeling and compensate those who bought the soup under false pretenses.
“This is not a food-police kind of lawsuit,” Levitt said. “The issue here is about whether a major, major food company in the United States, as well as a leading heart health organization, can lie to the American public.”

In a videotaped response, the chief science officer for the American Heart Association said the organization will fight the lawsuit. “The claim in the lawsuit is inaccurate and false and it’s not even plausible,” said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson. “Our ‘Heart Check’ mark helps consumers make smarter choices about the foods they eat. It is not deceptive or misleading.”

The AHA’s Science Officer also said the “Heart Check” criteria and AHA’s general nutritional guidance are both available to the public. In a written statement, the organization emphasizes it recommends an average of 1500 mg of sodium or less per day. And not all foods must be low sodium to fit in a heart healthy diet.

FoodFacts.com weighs in on this subject from a very definite viewpoint. We certainly think that it’s possible that many manufacturers are aware that their products are not being consumed according to the serving sizes listed on the packaging. That’s how some nutrition labels can read 0 in the Trans Fat column, even though they contain partially hydrogenated oils. And how some soups can qualify as “lower sodium” or “heart healthy” when they really aren’t. Half a cup of soup for lunch can make for one hungry human by three o’clock in the afternoon. And we’re really doubtful someone is saving the rest of the can for the next day.

We’re not sure what will happen with this class action suit. The AHA clearly states its requirements and recommendations (and these products are within those guidelines.) Campbell’s clearly states on its label that one serving (which contains 410 mg. of sodium) is half a cup. Both AHA requirements and Campbell’s labeling may, in fact, be misleading – but they aren’t lying. They’re using some tried and true sales techniques that get consumers to think something about a product that isn’t exactly a lie – and isn’t exactly the truth either. You very well could consume only 410 mg. of sodium – but you may easily consume more.

Should that kind of labeling be legal? Is it misleading? Does it deserve Heart Check Certification? FoodFacts.com thinks that there are better questions to ask like “What do certifications like Heart Check actually mean for consumers and should we trust our health to symbols that may or may not mean what we perceive?”

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/11/01/suit-campbells-heart-organization-misled-consumers-over-soup-salt-content/

Changes in chain restaurant menus haven’t improved calorie and sodium levels

We’ve looked at the many different reasons fast food is not a healthy choice here at FoodFacts.com. Fast food chains (and other chain restaurants) have come under fire fairly consistently for serving foods containing too many calories, too much sodium and too much fat. It’s gotten to the point where many of those chains have replaced or added menu items that they are claiming are better consumer choices. Seems like everyone should be happy with their response, doesn’t it? Maybe not …

Although a number of chain restaurants have announced healthy menu changes over the years, the overall calorie and sodium levels in main entrées offered by top U.S. chain restaurants assessed from 2010 to 2011 have remained the same, according to a study published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The study, “Changes in the Energy and Sodium Content of Main Entrées in U.S. Chain Restaurants from 2010 to 2011,” evaluated the nutritional content changes of more than 26,000 regular menu entrées in a year by 213 major U.S. chain restaurants nationwide. It also looked at entrées among restaurants that included children’s menus.

“Restaurant menus did not get any healthier over time,” said Helen Wu, a policy and research analyst at the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis Health System.

Between the spring of 2010 and spring of 2011, Wu and Roland Sturm, senior economist at the RAND Corp., reviewed restaurant websites for nutrition information. They found that, even with all the substitutions and reformulations eateries made to their menus, restaurants made no meaningful nutrition changes overall. The average entrée in 2010 contained 670 calories and remained at 670 calories one year later. Sodium levels only dropped from 1,515 milligrams per entrée to 1,500 milligrams at follow-up.

The study was conducted at a time when restaurants faced ongoing internal and external pressures to increase healthier menu offerings. For example, the study examined restaurant menu changes in the year following passage of a federal menu-labeling mandate, which was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. More than three years later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued final regulations directing chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus, though some restaurants, such as McDonald’s, have already started posting calorie counts on their menu boards.

“The implementation of a national menu labeling law could be an important strategy to accelerate progress on menu nutrition in restaurants by encouraging more substantial menu nutrition changes,” Wu said.

“Maybe some more encouragement is needed, as in the Choose Health LA Restaurants program that the Department of Public Health started in September,” Sturm said. “Restaurants participating can post a large decal in their window if they offer smaller portion sizes and healthier children’s meals with less fried food and more fruits and vegetables.”

In the United States, 82 percent of adults eat out at least once a week. Previous research has shown that increased consumption of food away from home is associated with increased consumption of calories, fat and sodium. Currently, two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight.

Regardless of their menu promotions, the majority of fast food chain offerings remain unhealthy choices for the population. It’s fair to say that even some of the less caloric options coming from the chains should be avoided. After all, calories aren’t everything and ingredient lists count. FoodFacts.com hope that studies like this will help more consumers become more nutritionally aware of the foods they are consuming. It’s so easy to be swayed by claims of healthier menu choices. The reality of the claims by chain restaurants often doesn’t match the rhetoric. We should all dig a little deeper to find the truth about fast food.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131001091507.htm

Baby food in the news

FoodFacts.com has been noticing a great deal of information in the news lately regarding concerns over the nutritional quality of baby foods. After reading a variety of different articles discussing those concerns, we wanted to bring our community a snapshot of the current conversations.

If you were to input “baby food” into the FoodFacts.com search engine, your search would yield a number of different products, ranging from a health score of A all the way down through F. There are many quality, well-rated baby food products that do, in fact, offer consumers clean ingredient lists. So why is there so much press lately encouraging parents to make their own baby foods? Especially these days, when “busy” is a word so ingrained into our popular culture, a great majority of parents see purchasing prepared baby food as a necessity, not a choice. We thought we’d take a closer look at the issues behind the articles.

Sugar
We all understand that there is far too much sugar in the average American diet. And we all understand that the bulk of sugars consumed in an average day are coming from processed foods. But most of us probably don’t understand that our fondness for sweeter foods may just find its roots in prepared baby foods. In most instances the sugar content in baby food is coming directly from the fruits and vegetables used in the food. Certainly, that’s a better source of sugar than what we find in most processed foods. Sadly, though, most baby food is prepared from fruit and vegetable concentrates. Because of this, the final preparation contains much more sugar than it needs to.

For instance, Earth’s Best 3rd Fruits Bananas & Strawberries receives a C+ rating in our database. It has a fine ingredient list. Organic apples and strawberries are at the top of a short, readable list of ingredients. It also contains 27 grams of sugar for the one jar serving size. That’s 6.75 teaspoons of sugar in one jar. One small mashed banana contains 12 grams of sugar.

Another good example is Gerber Fruit Medley Spoonable Smoothies. This jar contains 25 grams of sugar – that’s still over 6 teaspoons in one jar.

Sodium
Six month old babies should only be consuming about 120 mg of sodium each day. There are plenty of jarred foods out there that come very close to this limit. You can look at Gerber Organic Vegetable Risotto with Cheese and find 110 mg of sodium in its one jar serving. You can also look up Beech-Nut Stage 2 Sweet Potato & Turkey and find 110 mg. of sodium on it’s nutrition label as well.

Then a parent could add a product like Gerber Yogurt Juice to their baby’s diet. This product contains 17 grams of sugar and 50 mg. of sodium. It can all add up very quickly because baby’s diet includes only small amounts of both sugar and sodium.

These are the two best reasons FoodFacts.com can think of for parents to try to fit home made baby food preparation into their schedules. We know, though, that schedules are pretty stretched. So if you can’t make your own, please make sure you are diligently reading ingredient lists and nutrition labels for the products you purchase for your little ones. FoodFacts.com has created the Foodfacts Baby Nutrition Guide (http://bit.ly/11sbCcN) to help you make sure the products you choose are the most nutritionally beneficial for your baby.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/09/homemade_versus_store_bought_baby_food_your_kitchen_beats_the_jars.2.html

Getting under the skin of blood pressure regulation

FoodFacts.com has been keeping our community up to date about controversies surrounding sodium levels. While it appears that we consume far too much salt on a daily basis, there have been conflicting studies about just how much is too much, how we need to control sodium levels in our diets and the effects of consuming too much of it. But today we found information that really got under our skin … literally.

According to new studies out of Vanderbilt University, a different and important organ system is significant to our bodies’ blood pressure control abilities. It appears that our skin stores sodium. Traditionally the model for blood pressure regulation has been relegated to the kidney, circulatory system and the brain. But that model still left questions about the reasons for elevated blood pressure in 90 percent of hypertension patients.

In these studies, researchers sought to find other ways the body stores sodium and they discovered that the skin, the immune system cells and lymph capillaries do, in fact, help to regulate sodium balance and blood pressure.

Mice who were fed a high-salt diet had large amounts of salt accumulate in their skin. The immune system cells seemed to sense the sodium and activated a protein called TONEBP. This protein increased a growth factor in the immune cells which in turn builds lymph vessel capacity and helps to clear the sodium.

The study shows that elimination of the TONEBP gene in immune cells prevented the normal response to a high-salt diet and increased blood pressure. Likewise, blocking signaling through the lymph vessel receptor inhibited the changes in lymph vessel density and resulted in salt-sensitive hypertension.

The findings support the idea that the immune and lymphatic systems in the skin work together to regulate electrolyte  composition and blood pressure. Defects in this regulatory system may be associated with salt-sensitive hypertension.

To study the clinical relevance of sodium storage in humans, the investigators implemented special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies to detect sodium. They reported earlier this year that sodium is stored in muscle and skin in human beings, and that sodium storage increases with age and is associated with hypertension.

In future studies they intend to explore the meaning of that sodium storage. Will it, for example, elevate the risk for cardiovascular disease? They are planning to follow 2000 individuals for five years to measure tissue sodium two times per year to determine if elevated tissue sodium levels are linked to heart attacks, stroke or other arterial diseases.

There’s salt everywhere in our food supply. FoodFacts.com knows that our sodium consumption really isn’t coming from the salt shakers on our tables. This new information about how sodium is stored in the skin gives us a better idea of what our bodies are doing with all that salt and how it can possibly be affecting our health. We’ll be watching for the new studies exploring the relationship of cardiac disease and the salt-skin phenomenon. It’s just one more reason we should all be as aware as we possibly can be of our sodium consumption. We should all make our best effort to rid our diets of salt-laden processed foods. Let’s keep the salt on our tables where it belongs.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603135314.htm