November 28, 2021

New Research Finds Early Experience Shapes Salt Preference

Most of us know that we consume too much sodium. In fact, Americans consume about 3400 milligrams of sodium every day. The recommended daily limit is about 2300 milligrams. The body’s actual requirement for sodium is only 220 milligrams a day. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods. Because salt is on the “Generally Regarded as Safe” (G.R.A.S.) list, producers can add as much salt as they want to processed foods.

High sodium intake can cause various health problems. You do need some sodium in your diet, but too much can raise blood pressure and contribute to the development of hypertension, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

A taste preference for salt is difficult to overcome. Researchers just found that when babies are exposed to salty foods they develop a “salt tooth”.

The research was conducted at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on December 20, 2011.

Some of the “first foods” babies eat, such as crackers and cereals, are very high in sodium. The study looked at sixty-one 2-month-old infants and 6-month-old infants to see how they responded to salt solutions in several concentrations. At 2 months, none of the infants liked the 1% salt solution, and all rejected the 2% solution.

But things changed for the 6-month-old babies. Those who had eaten salty foods liked the salty solutions, while babies who had eaten fruit instead of salty snacks still rejected the solutions. As the salt-loving babies grew, they wanted to eat salt plain and would lick salt off foods.


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