The Genetic Reason You Over-Salt Your Food
What is it about salt that makes food so much more delicious? Perhaps it's the fact that it can reduce bitterness and bring out the sour, umami, and sweet flavors of our food. The addition of salty flavors to both sweet and savory foods truly does make everything taste better.
The problem is, eating too much salt can lead to a wide range of health problems, including hypertension, water retention, and organ strain. Sadly, a lot of the food we eat contains more sodium than is healthy. And, to top it off, we still add a lot of salt to our food.
But maybe the fact that you're over-salting your food has something to do with your genes—or so says a study out of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing.
The researchers in this study examined the eating habits of more than 400 people, 73% of them female, and with an average age of 51. All of the participants had two or more risk factors for heart disease.
In the course of the study, it was discovered that people with the TAS2R38 gene variant were the most likely to over-salt their food. This gene is believed to enhance the perception of bitter flavors, and the fact that salt can reduce bitter flavors was one of the primary factors that contributed to their over-salting.
People who taste bitter flavors more intensely tend to enjoy the flavor of the salt more intensely as well. This led to their over-salting their food, increasing their sodium intake beyond safe or normal limits. Those with this specific gene variant often ate 190% of the daily recommended amount of salt.
Note: According to the AHA, the "ideal" is currently 1,500mg of salt (the maximum is 2,300mg) per day.
What's interesting about this study is the fact that it pinpoints a single contributing factor to higher salt intake. By identifying this gene variant, it gives healthcare professionals a clear understanding of why certain people tend to over-salt their food. Education can be tailored according to perception of taste, helping those with different taste preferences to choose the heart-healthy foods they can enjoy.
1. Smith, Jennifer L., Steve Estus, Terry A. Lennie, Debra K. Moser, Misook L. Chung, Gia T. Mudd-Martin "TASR Genotype is Associated With Adherence to Dietary Sodium Recommendations in Adults With Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors, Poster S3036", Univ of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016, November 12-16 in New Orleans, Louisiana.