Too much salt increases chance of obesity: Study

SEOUL - Eating too much salt can increase the risk of obesity, especially for teenagers, a government study found on Tuesday.

According to a joint study by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital, teenagers in the top 20 per cent in terms of salt intake are 1.77 times more likely to be overweight than those in the bottom 20 per cent.

For adults, the top 20 per cent are 1.2 times more at risk of becoming overweight than the bottom 20 per cent.

"The relationship between salt intake and obesity has been demonstrated by data analysis for the first time," said health officials.

The likelihood of obesity increases by 2.7 per cent for adults and 13.2 per cent for teenagers as the salt intake rises by one level on a five-level scale.

Oh Sang-woo, family medicine doctor of Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital, noted that the study was conducted controlling for calorie intake, clearly showing the effect of salty food on bodyweight.

"In order to control weight, it is important not only to reduce the total calories, but eat less salty food," said Oh.

"Children should develop a habit of eating less salty food from childhood because they are more likely to become overweight."

Sodium intake has been rising among Koreans, however.

It has increased from an average of 4,553 milligrams a day in 2008 to 4,878 mg in 2010, about 2.5 times the World Health Organization's guideline of 2,000 mg.