Well-Being Prevention & Cures

People can get used to a low-salt diet: study

Participants lowered sodium intake by about 30 percent and still enjoyed their food.
view of bowl and spoon of salt from above

Story at a glance

  • Salt intake can affect blood pressure.

  • This is especially important for older adults with hypertension. 

  • A study suggests that people can lower their salt intake and enjoy their food.

Sodium intake can affect overall health, such as by increasing blood pressure. Healthier diets might include getting people to eat less salty food. In a new study presented at a heart health conference, researchers educated a small group of participants about sodium and how it affects health and also implemented an intervention to try to get them to eat less salt. 

The study included 29 participants who have hypertension with an average age of 63. Over the course of 16 weeks, participants were given information and follow ups with a nurse. The researchers also provided a tool to help measure the saltiness of food. The results were presented at the ACNAP-EuroHeartCare Congress 2022 in Madrid, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). 

“One of the major barriers to sticking to a low salt diet is that people do not like the taste, but few studies have addressed this issue,” says study author Misook Chung of the University of Kentucky in a press release. “Our pilot study in patients with high blood pressure shows that it is possible to change taste perception and learn to like food with less salt.” 

The team measured sodium from urine samples at the beginning and end of the study. They also asked about preference for salty food and enjoyment of food on a 10-point scale. The people in the intervention group reduced their sodium intake by 1,158 mg per day, or a 30 percent reduction from baseline. Interestingly, although they still preferred salty food, enjoyment of a low-salt diet increased in this group from 4.8 to 6.5. 

There was a trend of decreasing average systolic blood pressure among the intervention participants, but it was not a statistically significant change. These results are promising, but because it was a small study might not allow researchers to make conclusions on the intervention’s impact. 

But, with larger studies in the future, we could understand more how lowering salt intake could affect blood pressure and whether the intervention could work long term. “Our study indicates that we can retrain our taste buds to enjoy low sodium food and gradually reduce the amount of salt we eat,” says Chung. “The gradual taste adaptation programme has the potential to control blood pressure but needs to be tested in a larger trial with longer follow up.”