“Supertasters” Use More Salt Than Others

Salt reduction and heart health tend to go hand-in-hand. When we talk about ways to maintain a healthy diet for cardiovascular disease prevention with our doctors, laying off the salt is a recurrent theme. Hypertension is estimated to affect 65 million Americans, yet we continue to over-consume sodium.  According to a recent study, this may not actually be a choice for some of us.

“Supertasters” are those individuals with heightened ability to taste with intensity beyond what the average person tastes.  It appears they have a gene for a bitter compound know as propylthiouracil (PROP).  PROP tastes bitter to them but is tasteless to others. They also may have an increase in taste papillae number on their tongue. Conceivably, these people are thought to have an advantage over non-tasters since they have a greater perception of saltiness and use less salt. However, in this study, supertasters consumed more sodium through food possibly to mask the heightened bitterness they seem to taste.

If you currently suffer from hypertension, crave salty food, or just add excess sodium to your meals, it may be even harder to reduce your intake since it’s in your genetic make up.  Keep in mind that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day if you are a healthy adult under the age of 51.  Remember a teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium chloride.

Looking for ways to reduce salt in your diet?

* Find a salt-free spice mixture and start using it in your cooking rather than salt (such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute or Lawry’s Salt-Free 17)

* Add potassium-rich foods to your diet. Potassium lowers blood pressure and offsets some of sodium’s bad effects. High-potassium foods include bananas, broccoli, avocados, potatoes and dried apricots.

* Read food labels to help determine the sodium levels of the foods you choose, and try to avoid processed foods. Canned foods such as soups can have your whole day’s worth of salt.

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1 Comment

  • Although major salt reductions can reduce systolic blood pressure for some people with hypertension by 1-4 points, the overwhelming number of peer-reviewed medical studies published in the last two years have cautioned against population-wide salt reduction, including the latest one by Maillot and Drewnowski in Am J Prev Med. 2012;42(2):174-179, demonstrating that anyone who follows the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for sodium will end up with a highly unbalanced and nutritionally inadequate diet.  Like Scientific American stated last year, “It’s time to end the war on salt!”

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