A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that most packaged foods marketed to toddlers (one- to three-years-old) contain far too much sugar and sodium. 72 percent of the dinners examined in the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, exceeded recommended sodium limits.
"Some of the foods had about similar [sugar or salt] content to what we see in adult foods," said the study's lead author Mary Cogswell, a scientist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the CDC in an interview with Live Science. "For example, in the category of savory snacks or salty snacks, the average sodium concentration, or amount of sodium per 100 grams, was about the same as you see in plain potato chips."
The Associated Press' Lindsey Tanner reports:
About seven in 10 toddler dinners studied contained too much salt, and most cereal bars, breakfast pastries and snacks for infants and toddlers contained extra sugars, according to the study... The researchers analyzed package information and labels for more than 1,000 foods marketed for infants and toddlers....
The study notes that almost one in four U.S. children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese -- and that almost 80 percent of kids ages 1 to 3 exceed the recommended maximum level of daily salt, which is 1,500 milligrams. Excess sugar and salt can contribute to obesity and elevated blood pressure even in childhood, but also later on.
"We also know that about one in nine children have blood pressure above the normal range for their age, and that sodium, excess sodium, is related to increased blood pressure," said Cogswell. "Blood pressure tracks from when children are young up through adolescence into when they're adults. Eating foods which are high in sodium can set a child up for high blood pressure and later on for cardiovascular disease."
The Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade organization that represents toddler food companies, disputed the study's findings, noting that it "does not accurately reflect the wide range of healthy choices available in today's marketplace ... because it is based on 2012 data that does not reflect new products with reduced sodium levels."
Additionally, the report "could needlessly alarm and confuse busy parents as they strive to develop suitable meal options that their children will enjoy."
Cogswell underscored that the report wasn't all bad: "The good news is that the majority of infant foods were low in sodium," she said. "Seven out of 10 toddler foods were high in the amount of sodium per serving and... a substantial proportion of toddler meals and the majority of other toddler foods and infant's and toddler's snacks contained an added sugar."