NEW ORLEANS — A taste for salt, acquired as a toddler, may be putting young Americans at risk for later hypertension. Almost three-quarters of commercially prepared meals and salty snacks for toddlers are too high in sodium, researchers report[1].

The study, which researchers believe is the first to determine current salt levels in commercially prepared foods for babies and toddlers, was presented at EPI|NPAM 2013 , the Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.

"Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child's diet, because high blood pressure as well as a preference for salty foods may develop early in life," lead author Joyce Maalouf (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA) said in a statement. "The less sodium in an infant's or toddler's diet, the less he or she may want it when older."

Parents and other caregivers should read nutrition labels on baby and toddler foods to check the sodium levels and then choose the healthiest options for their child, the group advises.

The study also establishes a baseline for salt content in baby and toddler foods, which may be useful to monitor any changes over time, they note.

The researchers determined the sodium content in 1115 food products sold for babies from four to 12 months old and for toddlers from one to three years old. The foods were deemed to have a high sodium content if they contained more than 210-mg sodium per serving, based onInstitute of Medicine references for children aged one to three years and ChooseMyPlate recommendations for children aged one to three.

Foods for babies did not surpass the recommended sodium levels with one exception: one of 18 pasta-based meals for nine- to 12-month-old babies contained 230-mg sodium per serving.

However, many toddler foods were excessively salty. A total of 64 of 90 (71%) commercially prepared meals and two of four (50%) savory snacks surpassed sodium-content recommendations. Some toddler meals contained as much as 630-mg sodium per serving.

The authors had no conflict of interest related to this study.