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Supertasters tend to crave salt, study finds

Supertasters – people who taste flavors more acutely than the rest of the population – tend to have diets that are high in salt, a new study has found.

Supertasters – people for whom flavors are more intense – tend to consume more salt than other people, a new study has found.

Newscom/File

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Recent efforts to reduce salt content in foods might be harder for some to swallow — literally.

Some people experience the taste of salt more intensely than others, and this taste difference might be due, at least in part, to hereditary factors, a new study suggests.

So-called "supertasters" taste saltiness, bitterness and sweetness more acutely than others, said study researcher John Hayes, an assistant professor of food science at Penn State University. This heighted salt sense can lead to an increased consumption of snack foods, which usually have saltiness as their primary flavor, he said.

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Salt has been in the spotlight recently, with many public health experts calling for manufacturers and restaurants to cut back on salt added to foods. In April, the Institute of Medicine released a report urging the federal government to step in and limit salt levels in foods.

Currently, U.S. citizens consume two to three times the amount of salt recommended for good health.

The research involved 87 participants who sampled salty foods, such as broth, chips and pretzels, on multiple occasions, spread out over weeks. They were also interviewed by a nutritionist and kept food records to gauge how frequently they ate certain foods. Test subjects were 45 men and 42 women ranging in age from 20 to 40 years.

The participants were broken up into three groups — supertasters, medium tasters and nontasters — based on their ability to taste a certain chemical compound known as propylthiouracil. Some perceived the substance to have an extremely bitter taste, while others hardly tasted a thing. How sensitive a person is to the bitter taste is genetic.

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