Salt could lead to weight gain by driving fatty food intake

IT’S NO secret: too much salt is bad for us. It can increase blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease and more. But two new studies have identified another downfall of a high salt intake – it can lead to over consumption of fatty foods, increasing the risk of obesity. Researchers say the studies – published in the Journal of Nutrition and Chemical Senses – support calls for the food industry to lower the salt, or sodium, intake of food products.
Both studies were conducted by Prof. Russell Keast and colleagues from Deakin University in Australia. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend individuals aged 2-50 limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg daily, while those aged 51 and older and people who have diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium daily. However, it is estimated that the average American consumes sodium at well above these guidelines – around 3,300 mg daily.
While you may not be heavy handed with the salt shaker, it is processed foods and restaurant meals that are the primary culprit, accounting for more than 75% of our sodium intake. Previous research from Prof. Keast and colleagues, including a study reported by Medical News Today earlier this year, suggested that individuals who are more sensitive to the taste of fat are more likely to eat fatty foods, putting them at greater risk of obesity. Their latest studies build on that research, suggesting that the amount of salt in a certain food may influence how much we eat.
For the first study, the team set out to investigate the effects of salt on the taste of fat and food preference. The researchers enrolled 49 healthy participants aged 18-54 and asked them to taste a variety of tomato soups that had four different fat concentrations (0%, 5%, 10% and 20%) and five different salt concentrations (0.04% – no added salt – 0.25%, 0.5%, 1% and 2%). After consuming the soups, participants were asked to rank the pleasantness and desire to eat each soup, as well as the perceived fattiness and saltiness of each soup.
Fat taste sensitivity among participants was measured by their ability to taste oleic acid – a fatty acid in vegetable fats and oils – at various concentrations in long-life skimmed milk. The researchers found that salt is a major player in the pleasantness of a food, with rating of food pleasantness varying greatly dependent on different salt contents; a salt concentration of 0.25-5% rated as most pleasant.
Surprisingly, they found this was not so much the case with fat content; no difference in food pleasantness was found between fat concentrations of 5%, 10% or 15%, though a fat content of 20% was rated as less pleasant. “We expected to find an increase in pleasantness in the 5% and 10% fat soups, but pleasantness did not differ between the soups with 0%, 5% and 10% fat,” note the authors.

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