ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A new study has found that cellular aging is sped up in obese and overweight teenagers who eat too much salty foods.

Nearly 800 teens, aged 14 to 18, were divided into two groups based on their salt consumption by researchers.  Those in the low-intake group consumed an average of less than 2,400 mg a day while those in the high-intake group consumed an average of more than 4,100 milligrams (mg) of salt daily.

The American Heart Association recommends a salt consumption of 1,500 mg a day and both groups consumed far more than that.

“Even in these relatively healthy young people, we can already see the effect of high [salt] intake, suggesting that high [salt] intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging,” lead author Dr. Haidong Zhu, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, told CBS News.

Telomeres, protective ends on chromosomes, were examined by researchers studying how salt intake affects them. With age, telomeres naturally shorten, however the process is accelerated by physical inactivity, smoking and high levels of body fat.

According to the study, telomeres were much shorter in overweight and obese teens with high salt intake, but not in normal-weight teens with high salt intake.

“Lowering [salt] intake, especially if you are overweight or obese, may slow down the cellular aging process that plays an important role in the development of heart disease,” Zhu said in an association news release.

Zhu explained that reducing salt intake would be easier than losing weight for overweight teens who want to lower their risk of heart disease.

The study was presented at an American Heart Association meeting in San Francisco.


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