WINSTON-SALEM—Sugary treats and drinks in excess have long been associated with childhood obesity. But now researchers from Australia may have discovered a hidden culprit behind the obesity epidemic: salt.
"This is one of the first big studies to show that having an increase salt intake is a problem in children," said childhood obesity expert from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Dr. Joseph Skelton.
More than 4,000 Australian children were part of a study that found those who had diets high in salt, were more likely to drink sugary beverages like sodas and sports drinks.
"It reflects that kids are eating a lot of salty foods and also drinking sugary drinks. Both of which are bad for their bodies,” said Skelton.
The diets caused unhealthy weight. In the United States, the CDC estimates that more than one third of children are overweight or obese.
"We do know that North Carolina is not doing very well when it comes to childhood health. Some recent report cards actually gave us an F when it came to children's weight and their nutritional and physical activity,” said Skelton.
Many times meals high in salt come with a sugary beverage and Skelton said we may just be trained to want that taste with certain meals like fast food. But that means children may not just be packing on the pounds, diets high in salt can also lead to high blood pressure and heart problems later in life.
"We tend to be able to taste the sugar and we know when something is really sweet," he said. "Salt though can be very hidden. Most of that is going to come from fast food and processed foods. You're taking in a lot of salt. You're taking in a lot of sugar. And that's just representative of an eight ounce soda and one slice of pizza. Kids can have a lot more than that in a single sitting."
For more information on childhood obesity in North Carolina, click her.