Research Article

High salt diets in young university adults and the correlation with blood pressure, protein intake and fat free mass

Lim Jia Jiet

University of Nottingham in Malaysia, Semenyih, Malaysia


5 Jul 2016


2 Mar 2017


22 Mar 2017






salt intake, blood pressure, urinary sodium, young adults, body composition, Malaysian diet


The diet of young university adults in Malaysia is mainly dependent on the food providers in and around the campus. Limited Malaysian studies have employed 24-h urinary sodium to estimate dietary salt intake in young adults. The fifth National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), Malaysia (2015) concluded that 30.3% of Malaysian adults aged 18 years and above have hypertension. The objective of this study was to investigate the dietary salt intake and blood pressure of young university adults and the relationship between these two variables. This study also estimated the macronutrient content of the foods frequently consumed by the study participants to explore the relationship between the macronutrients, salt and blood pressure. Twenty-eight participants aged between 18 and 25 years old were recruited. Blood pressure was measured using a digital blood pressure monitor. Anthropometric measurements of participants were taken using standard procedures. Twenty-four-hour urinary sodium was analysed using atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS). Food intake of the participants was surveyed by an interviewer-administered questionnaire to identify the sources of dietary salt. The mean salt intake of the participants was 10.80 ± 0.78 g/day (ranging from 5.71 g/day to 20.02 g/day), exceeding the recommendation of 5 g/day set by the National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition Malaysia by 116%. The mean systolic blood pressure (SBP) was 104.43 ± 1.68 mmHg, and the mean diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was 66.46 ± 1.23 mmHg. A positive correlation was found between salt intake and SBP, though it was not statistically significant (r = 0.21, p = 0.30). Salt intake was significantly associated with body weight (r = 0.47, p = 0.01), body mass index (BMI) (r = 0.45, p = 0.02) and fat free mass (r = 0.44, p = 0.02); SBP was also significantly correlated with body weight (r = 0.61, p = 0.00), BMI (r = 0.54, p = 0.00) and fat free mass (r = 0.56, p = 0.00). The sodium content of the food products was significantly correlated with energy-adjusted protein content of the food (r = 0.67, p = 0.00). Individuals who consumed more than 10 g/day of salt were frequent consumers of ‘dried anchovies/cuttlefish/prawns’, ‘instant meals’, ‘fried rice/noodles’, ‘noodles with soup’ and ‘noodles with soy sauce’. Educating the local food providers to modify their recipes with reduced salt could be part of an integrated strategy to reduce salt intake among the population.