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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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People With High Blood Pressure May Crave Salt

It's important to resist these cravings, study author says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Maureen Salamon

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- High-salt diets have long been linked to high blood pressure, but new research finds that those with the condition may have a far greater preference for salty foods than those with normal blood pressure.

In a small study of older adults, researchers from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found that participants with high blood pressure, or hypertension, favored bread dusted with the highest concentration of salt more than twice as much as those with normal blood pressure. Adding other seasonings to the salted bread, however, diminished the preference for salt across both groups.

The question remains: Are people with high blood pressure naturally drawn to salty foods, making them more prone to the condition?

"This is difficult to answer, but I believe that the genetic factor to salt appetite can be the beginning of the process," said study author Patricia Villela, a nutritionist and doctoral student at the university. "I was surprised by the fact that added seasonings may have changed the preference of the elderly, decreasing [their] appetite for salt."

The study was scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension, in San Francisco. Research presented at scientific conferences has typically not been peer-reviewed or published, and results are considered preliminary.

About 67 million American adults -- roughly one in three -- have high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as do nearly 1 billion people worldwide. The condition puts people at risk for heart disease, kidney damage, strokes and vision loss, among other health problems.

Villela and her team analyzed 44 seniors with an average age of 73, including 16 with normal blood pressure readings. All were initially given three pieces of French bread with varying amounts of salt on each. In that test, 68 percent of participants with high blood pressure preferred the bread with the highest concentration of salt, compared with 31 percent of those with normal blood pressure.

Fifteen days later, participants underwent a similar test, but this time other seasonings had been added to the salted bread. In that case, only 14 percent of patients with hypertension and none with normal blood pressure favored the bread with the highest salt content.

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