Why having a salt tooth might be the cause of your high blood pressure

Would you always choose chips over chocolate? You are not alone. While many of us may admit to having a sweet tooth, a recent YouGov survey found that more than 40 percent of people have a soft spot for salty rather than sugary flavors.

Experts call this phenomenon a salt tooth and it is becoming more and more common.

Because while some people are genetically programmed to crave salt (more on that later), others are now developing a salt tooth due to the prevalence of highly processed, salty foods in our diets.

Eighty percent of the salt we consume today is added to our food during the production process, according to figures from the World Health Organization.

“Almost all processed foods are high in salt to make them taste more appetizing, which can gradually increase our taste for saltier foods without us realizing it,” says Clare Thornton-Wood, a dietician from Guildford.

More than 40 percent of people have a soft spot for salty rather than sweet flavors

Experts call the phenomenon a salt tooth, and it's becoming more common (File image)

Experts call the phenomenon a salt tooth, and it’s becoming more common (File image)

Whatever the underlying cause, giving in to your salt tooth increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. But while most of us are aware of the risks of excessive sugar intake, 75 percent of people don’t closely monitor their intake of sodium — the main component of salt — according to a recent survey for the British Heart Foundation.

Our body does need some salt. It is essential to keep our bodily fluids at the proper salt levels so that nerve and muscle cells, including the heart, can function properly,

But too much salt causes the body to retain water. This raises blood pressure, which in turn puts a strain on the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.

An estimated 15 million adults in the UK have high blood pressure.

Excess salt can also lead to swelling – especially of the extremities such as the ankles and fingers, as the extra fluid gets trapped there.

Trying to reduce salt intake may be more difficult for some than others. In 2016, scientists at the University of Edinburgh discovered that a key gene previously linked to high blood pressure also appeared to be responsible for our appetite for salt.

Because while some people are genetically programmed to crave salt (more on that later), others are now developing a salt tooth due to the prevalence of highly processed, salty foods in our diets (File Image)

Because while some people are genetically programmed to crave salt (more on that later), others are now developing a salt tooth due to the prevalence of highly processed, salty foods in our diets (File Image)

They found that people with reduced activity of this HSD11B2 gene had a greater appetite for salt – and when the scientists removed this gene in mice, the animals developed a strong preference for salt.

“Salt is an essential mineral for life,” says Professor Matthew Bailey, kidney expert and lead researcher on the study. “But in the past it was hard to find, so mammals evolved genetic pathways to make us crave it, take pleasure in eating it and hold it in our bodies,”

Home remedies

Traditional treatments that work. This week: Chamomile tea for a better night’s sleep

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A cup of chamomile tea, steeped for 15 minutes, was found to improve sleep quality and symptoms of depression in new mothers, a Taiwanese trial reported in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2016.

‘Clinical research suggests that some ingredients, including apigenin, may directly affect neurotransmitters [brain chemicals] associated with mood such as GABA, dopamine and serotonin – or it may modulate HPA axis function [the part of the nervous system that controls stress]says Dr. Chris Etheridge, a medical herbalist and president of the British Herbal Medicine Association.

‘Chamomile tea is best drunk throughout the day. Three or four cups a day is optimal.’

These pathways mean that when we eat salt, it activates the pleasure centers in our brain, just like sugar does.

“What causes health problems is that salt is not scarce these days and most of our intake comes from the salt that is added to the processed foods we eat, meaning most people consume about five to 10 times that amount each day. eating salt as the body actually does should be able to function healthily [just 1.5g],” Professor Bailey told Good Health.

While we are all programmed to enjoy salt, certain gene variations seem to make these cravings stronger, driving intake higher.

The HSD11B2 gene is not the only one involved.

In another 2016 study, researchers at the University of Kentucky in the US found that people with a TAS2R38 gene variant – responsible for tasting bitter flavors – were much more likely to exceed the recommended daily salt intake. An estimated 30 percent of the population has this genotype. These so-called supertasters have an enhanced perception of bitterness, so they tend to avoid foods like broccoli and dark leafy greens.

“It could be that people who taste bitter flavors more intensely may also taste salt more intensely and enjoy it more, leading to higher sodium intake,” said study leader Dr. Jennifer Smith, a cardiovascular scientist.

“But another theory is that they use salt to mask the bitter taste of food and end up consuming more sodium that way.”

The official opinion is that most of us consume too much salt – an average of 8.4 g (about 1.5 teaspoon) per day, according to figures from the 2019 National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The maximum daily recommended intake is 6 g (about a level teaspoon).

However, a few studies have controversially suggested that the risks of salt have been exaggerated.

For example, researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, suggested in The Lancet in 2018 that while very high salt consumption (more than 12.5 g of salt) “is most definitely associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, at least in humans with high blood pressure’, who consumed less than 5 g per day increased hormone levels associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Their study looked at the sodium levels of about 95,000 people in 21 countries. “However, the vast majority of research still shows that moderate to high sodium intake is strongly associated with higher blood pressure on a population level,” says Professor Ian Swaine, a sports and exercise scientist at the University of Greenwich who has studied blood pressure.

Secrets to a top physique: how to get the enviable physique of the stars

This week: Priyanka Chopra is back

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Actress Priyanka Chopra, 40, wore a white dress that showed off her toned back as she arrived for a TV interview in New York.

The star, who does her own stunts, says she would rather spend her whole day exercising than spending hours in the gym. She walks her dogs, walks, swims and takes a skipping rope on set.

WHAT TO TRY: If you don’t have access to a pool, you can achieve the same effect with “Pilates swimming,” otherwise known as the Superman alternating exercise.

Lie face down and extend your arms straight above you (as Superman flies). Contract your abs and lift your head, left arm, and right leg off the floor as far as you can, keeping the limbs straight as you lift. Hold your left arm and right leg up and down for a count of five, then return them to the floor. Repeat on the other side. Do this ten times on each side every other day.

At the same time, we should bear in mind that there is room for individual variation in how we react, and there are certainly people for whom salt intake has little effect on their blood pressure – just as there are others who are very sensitive to salt intake.

“It seems most of us are somewhere in between the two extremes, but without a reliable way to know exactly how sensitive we are to salt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and stick to recommended levels.”

According to a new report from the World Health Organization, salt contributes to a shocking 1.8 million deaths a year globally — with an increase in salt intake of just 1 g per day associated with a 23 percent higher risk of stroke and a 14 percent higher risk of stroke. risk of heart disease.

But if you have a salt tooth — acquired or genetic — how do you alleviate that craving, especially when so much of the salt we consume is already in our food?

Recent data from the Action on Salt campaign revealed that a slice of white bread can contain as much salt as a packet of crisps, and that some store-bought soups are saltier than seawater.

“Studies show that with sustained effort, it’s possible to reset the brain and get pleasure from foods with less salt in them, but this takes several weeks of gradual salt reduction to achieve – for example, by not adding it to food and eating too much.” opt for packaged salts. foods that contain less added salt,” says Professor Bailey.

Dietitian Clare Thornton-Wood recommends adding more herbs and spices to flavored sauces instead of salt, and squeezing lemon juice on vegetables.

“In a few weeks, you’ll start to find salty foods too salty,” she promises.

“But the most important thing is to reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods, as they often contain a lot of hidden salt – this means pizza, chips, salami, bacon and cereal.” By eating them you unconsciously develop a salt tooth.

‘Read the nutritional information – anything containing 1.5 g or more per 100 g is considered high salt; low is less than 0.3 g.’

But products that promise to be “low-salt” or “low-sodium” may not be the solution, she says.

‘They often replace it with other minerals such as potassium, a high intake of which is difficult for people with kidney problems or pregnant women, for example.

“For a healthier alternative, yeast flakes (often used by vegans to add a salty or cheesy flavor) are good and also contain B vitamins, zinc, and fiber.” And dried seaweed is also a good way to get a salty taste without the sodium.”