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Kids and Salt: Can High-Salt Foods Increase the Risk of Asthma?

Do your kids too much salt? If they’re like most children, they probably eagerly reach for high-salt foods like potato chips, pretzels, crackers and other sodium-rich snacks. Too much salt isn’t good for anyone, but too many salty snack foods could be particularly problematic for children who have asthma.

According to a study published in the American Dietetic Association, high-salt foods and snacks are linked to lung changes that trigger asthma symptoms.

Researchers in Greece used food frequency questionnaires to look at the eating habits of 700 kids between the ages of 10 and 12. They also used questionnaires to monitor their asthma symptoms. The results? Kids who ate high-salt foods more than three times a week saw their risk of asthma symptoms go up almost five times.

This study doesn’t necessarily prove that salty snacks trigger asthma. There could be some other unidentified factor associated with kids who eat a diet high in salt. On the other hand, researchers believe that a high-sodium diet may cause the smooth muscle in bronchioles to “clamp down,” triggering asthma symptoms.

There are numerous studies looking at the issue of sodium and asthma. Many show that low-sodium diets reduce asthma symptoms and may be particularly effective for preventing exercise-induced asthma symptoms. According to an article published on Medscape.com, adopting a low-sodium diet for 2-5 weeks reduces asthma symptoms in adults. The same may be true for children too.

The bottom line? Most kids eat too many high-salt foods. Sodium is hiding in most packaged snack products at grocery stores — even in seemingly innocent choices like cottage cheese. If you have a child with asthma, read labels carefully, and try to wean them off of high-salt snacks and on to whole food snack such as fruit. It’s a healthier choice, and it could have the bonus of improving their asthma symptoms.
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