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et al., 1975). The behavioral and physiological basis for this age-related difference is not understood. It could reflect cohort effects if, for example, children were exposed to higher salt levels than adults, or it could reflect some underlying difference in the sensory or metabolic properties of salt for individuals of different ages.

Taken together, these data highlight the importance of understanding salt taste and salt taste preference in children and how early experiences modulate these sensory responses. It is likely that during infancy and childhood, the salt environment—and any changes in it that result from lowering the overall salt level in the food environment—will have the most profound effects. However, since research in this area has been limited, it is highly important that studies be conducted to evaluate how changes in salt exposure (while maintaining adequate intake) during this crucial period influence later liking.


In light of the considerable role that salt taste plays in food choice, it is necessary that sodium intake reduction focus on approaches that rely on modification or manipulation of salt taste along with the search for salt substitutes. Several approaches may be relevant to strategies to reduce intake.

Changes in Salt Taste Preference in Adulthood: A Potential Model for Population-Wide Reductions

Anecdotal reports, clinical impressions, and a limited body of experimental evidence suggest that when people assume a lower-sodium diet, they will gradually come to appreciate the lowered sodium and acclimate to it. For example, the Arctic explorer Stefansson (1946) reported that while he was living with Inuit groups who do not add salt to their food, he first found the foods insipid and craved salt; within a few months, however, he lost desire for added salt, and when he tasted food with it, he found it unpalatable.

Experimental evidence, albeit limited, supports these anecdotes and suggests that the preference for salt is a malleable trait. These studies reveal that when people undertake a low-sodium diet, the immediate response is to strongly dislike the foods with less salt (Beauchamp, 1991). However, the lower-sodium diet eventually becomes accepted, and in fact, foods containing the previous amount of salt may be perceived as too salty (Beauchamp et al., 1983; Blais et al., 1986; Elmer, 1988; Mattes, 1997; Teow et al., 1986). For example, one study that examined a very small number of individuals (Bertino et al., 1982) reported that after consuming

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