Based on results of a computer modelling analysis, researchers projected that a 3,000-mg reduction in sodium by teenagers could reduce their risk for hypertension by 30% to 43% when they became adults, if they stuck with it.
Other benefits over time as teens hit 50 years of age include a 7% to 12% reduction in coronary heart disease, an 8% to 14% reduction in heart attacks, and a 5% to 8% reduction in stroke, according to data presented at the scientific sessions at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg. Teenagers consume more than 3,800 mg - more than any other group.
Processed food typically contains too much sodium. One bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos has 310 mg. Pizza is one of the biggest problems for teens when it comes to sodium, according to data from the National Centre for Health Statistics.
"The additional benefit of lower salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty," said Dr Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco.
"Most of the salt we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat," she added.
The model incorporated data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2008; it also used data from published trials on the effects of salt intake reduction on blood pressure. (Reuters Health/ November 2010)