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Early Food Choices Seem to Influence Taste for Salt Later

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The types of foods given to infants seems to affect their future taste for salt, a new study has found.

Researchers tested the salt preference of 61 infants when they were 2 months old and found they were either indifferent to or rejected salty fluids, and preferred water.

At 6 months of age, the 26 infants who had been introduced to starchy table foods preferred the salty fluids to water. The 35 infants who had not eaten any starchy foods remained indifferent to or rejected the salty fluids, the investigators found.

The researchers checked with the mothers of 26 of the children when they reached preschool age and found that the 12 children who were introduced to starchy table foods before 6 months of age were more likely to lick salt from foods and to eat plain salt.

Exposure to other table foods, such as fruit, was not associated with an increased preference for the taste of salt, said the researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Their study focused on starchy foods because they include processed foods -- such as breakfast cereals, bread and crackers -- which are often used as beginning foods for infants and often contain added salt.

"Our findings suggest that early dietary experience influences the preference for salty taste," lead author and physiological psychologist Leslie Stein said in a Monell news release.

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It's believed that reducing sodium intake could prevent more than 100,000 deaths a year and save billions of dollars in medical costs in the United States, according to the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains how to reduce salt and sodium in your diet.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Monell Chemical Senses Center, news release, Dec. 20, 2011

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