Taste for Salt May Be Linked to Birth Weight

Finding could offer insights into blood-pressure treatment, researchers say

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TUESDAY, Dec. 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A baby's birth weight seems to affect his or her preference for salt, says a study by researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Their study of 80 healthy 2-month-old babies found that those who were smaller at birth seemed to have a greater preference for salty tastes than those who were larger at birth.

"The early appearance of this relationship suggests that developmental events occurring in utero may have a lasting influence on an individual's preference for salty taste," study lead author and biopsychologist Leslie Stein said in a prepared statement.

"Because similar relationships were not found for sweet foods, the data suggest that there is a specific and enduring relationship between birth weight and salty taste acceptance. Now additional studies are needed to determine whether birth weight predicts salt preference and, even more importantly, salt intake, in older children and adults," Stein said.

This kind of research may help scientists learn more about the underlying factors that influence salt preference and intake. This information could possibly be useful in developing programs to reduce salt intake, which is believed to be a factor in the development and continuation of high blood pressure.

Salty taste is intrinsically appealing to humans, but scientists don't have a good understanding of the mechanisms behind human detection and acceptance of salty taste, the researchers said.

"The development of practical and successful methods to reduce salt intake likely will not be possible without a more thorough understanding of exactly how humans detect salty taste and the factors that modify salty taste acceptance," Gary Beauchamp, Monell director and study co-author, said in a prepared statement.

The study appears in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about sodium.

SOURCE: Monell Chemical Senses Center, news release, Dec. 7, 2005,

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