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

December 5, 2016 by Elizabeth Adams, University of Kentucky
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

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

Living the high life: How altitude influences bone growth

June 19, 2018
High altitude is a particularly challenging environment—the terrain is physically challenging and the land has a relatively poor crop yield, so food can be sparse. Most importantly, oxygen levels are lower meaning that ...

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.