A genetic marker indicates a desire for salty foods but people can still control 'salt-tooth'

December 5, 2016 by Elizabeth Adams
Credit: University of Kentucky

A sprinkle over a baked potato or a teaspoon to flavor a pot of chili might seem innocent to the average dieter, but salt is a major culprit of cardiovascular disease in America.

Some people have a proclivity for sweet foods, such as candy, confectionery treats or ice cream. Others, however, need salty foods to satiate their palettes, often snacking on potato chips, making meals of foods high in preservatives or supplementing recipes with extra doses of salt.

Science is showing a person's desire for salty foods might be ingrained in his or her genetic makeup. A recent study conducted by our research team at the UK College of Nursing indicated that genetic variations in taste perception might influence dietary patterns associated with . Our team examined the TAS2R38 gene variant, which influences bitter taste. In a sample of more than 400 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, we found that individuals with the enhanced perception genotype were more likely to consume higher than the recommended amount of daily than people without the genotype.

Further research to better understand this and other genetic influences on taste, might one day allow healthcare providers to develop more targeted approaches to support reduced sodium intake in people who are genetically predisposed to consume salty foods. Our understanding of the genetic connection to dietary behavior will pave the way to more advanced practices and opportunities for prevention.

In the meantime, it is important to note that everyone should monitor salt and sodium intake to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and ideally limiting sodium to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most people. Research shows we can train our palettes to adapt to a low-sodium diet. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep a journal of your so you know when you're exceeding your limits.
  • Salt is hidden in many of the basic foods we purchase, including bread, cereal and canned soups. Start reading labels so you can pinpoint foods high in sodium.
  • Learn to cook with minimal amounts of salt and to instead flavor foods using herbs and spices.
  • Instead of buying packaged foods, which are typically packed with sodium and preservatives, opt for home-cooked meals that only need small portions of salt.

Salt lovers—don't think you must deprive yourselves to prevent cardiovascular disease. By consciously managing the amount of salt in your diet, you will find you can still enjoy salty foods and sodium in smaller portions. Consider a treat, much like dessert.

Explore further: Inherited taste perceptions may explain why some people eat too much salt

Related Stories

Inherited taste perceptions may explain why some people eat too much salt

November 13, 2016
Inherited differences in taste perceptions may help explain why some people eat more salt than recommended, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016.

Kids continue to consume too much salt, putting them at risk

November 3, 2016
Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, kills more than 800,000 Americans each year. We know that too much salt may contribute to high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk. According to a new ...

CDC: Bread beats out chips as biggest salt source

February 7, 2012
Bread and rolls are the No. 1 source of salt in the American diet, accounting for more than twice as much sodium as salty junk food like potato chips.

Food scientists strive for sodium reduction

May 14, 2013
In the May issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about how food manufacturers are trying to overcome formulation challenges to develop ...

Things to Know: The Obama administration's sodium guidelines

June 1, 2016
From cheese to sliced turkey, the Obama administration is encouraging food companies and restaurants to lower the amount of salt in the foods they sell.

Recommended for you

Searching for a link between achy joints and rainy weather in a flood of data, researchers come up dry

December 13, 2017
Rainy weather has long been blamed for achy joints. Unjustly so, according to new research from Harvard Medical School. The analysis, published Dec. 13 in BMJ, found no relationship between rainfall and joint or back pain.

Mistletoe and (a large) wine: Seven-fold increase in wine glass size over 300 years

December 13, 2017
Our Georgian and Victorian ancestors probably celebrated Christmas with more modest wine consumption than we do today - if the size of their wine glasses are anything to go by. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have ...

How well can digital assistants answer questions on sex?

December 13, 2017
Google laptop searches seem to be better at finding quality online sexual health advice than digital assistants on smartphones, find experts in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Healthy eating linked to kids' happiness

December 13, 2017
Healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied, in children regardless of body weight, according to a study published ...

Owning a pet does not seem to influence signs of aging

December 13, 2017
Owning a pet does not appear to slow the rate of ageing, as measured by standard indicators, suggest the authors of a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Increased air pollution linked to bad teenage behavior

December 13, 2017
A new study linking higher levels of air pollution to increased teenage delinquency is a reminder of the importance of clean air and the need for more foliage in urban spaces, a Keck School of Medicine of USC researcher said.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.