You may have heard of a sweet tooth, but researchers are suggesting that some people may have a salt tooth, too. This ‘salt tooth’ may affect your salt preferences and may help explain why some like saltier food than others.
Lead researcher Jennifer Smith explained that some genetic variants make people more aware of bitter flavors. Those with this genetic variant are twice as likely to exceed daily salt recommendations.
The gene responsible for this is known as TAS2R38. Other studies have shown that variations of these gene are associated with an enhanced perception of bitter flavors. Smith added, “We were looking at a gene that codes for taste receptors. People with one genotype will taste bitter more keenly than people who have the other genotype.”
Previous studies of this gene variant have shown that people are less likely to eat certain heart-healthy foods if they are perceived as more bitter such as broccoli and other dark leafy greens.
The researchers analyzed 407 people who had two or more risk factors for heart disease. The researchers tested the participants for these factors. Smith explained, “We found people who tasted bitter more keenly were in fact 1.9 times more likely to be non-adherent to the sodium guidelines.”
Smith explained the higher preference for salt may be due to the fact that those with this gene variant taste salt more intensely, so they prefer the taste of salt more so. On the other hand, salt may mask bitter tastes, and that could explain why these individuals use more of it.
“There are alternatives you can use to flavor foods, and we need to begin investigating those. We can start to look if there are different types of spices or seasonings we can add instead of salt to offset the bitter taste. For example, with bitter vegetables, you can use a little bit of sugar rather than salt to offset the bitter,” Smith added.
Although the results are preliminary, they do shed light on possible new areas for further investigation in order to reduce salt intake among these people and this way help reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.