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‘Salt Tooth’ is a Thing, and Study Says Your Genes are to Blame

Nov 15, 2016 03:49 AM EST

Craving for salty foods? According to one study, people who prefer eating fries over a slice of cake may have "salt tooth."

A new study found that people who had a certain variation of a gene called TAS2R48 were more likely to consume too much sodium than those who do not have the gene variant, Live Science reports.

"By identifying which gene variant a person has, we may be able to help them make better food choices through education that is personally tailored to them," Jennifer Smith, a PhD student in nursing at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

According to the study findings, which were presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in New Orleans on Sunday, these genetic variations are causing some people to be more aware of bitter tastes, leading them to exceed the daily limit of salt consumption recommended by heart specialists.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Consuming too much sodium could lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, AHA said.

"There is some research suggesting that individuals who taste bitter more intensely may also taste salt more intensely and enjoy it more, leading to increased sodium intake," Smith said. "Another theory is that they use salt to mask the bitter taste of foods and thus consume more sodium."

Smith and her colleagues analyzed the diets of 407 people in rural Kentucky who had two or more heart disease risk factors. The researchers also conducted a genetic testing to determine if participants carried the gene variation that enhances the bitter taste in food.

They found that people who had the gene variation were 1.9 times more likely to exceed the recommended of 2,300 mg sodium limit than those who did not have the gene variant.

Other aspects of the subjects' diet were also examined, including saturated fat, sugar and alcohol consumption. But the researchers found that the gene variations did not have any effect on them.

"We still consume vastly more sodium than we need to, and it does adversely affect blood pressure. Especially as we age, it becomes increasingly important to cut back," Dr. Lawrence Appel, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore who was not included in the research, said in a statement. "Whether or not you have this gene, sodium reduction is good for you."

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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