Salt is in nearly every food consumed, but some may have a genetic variation causing them to have salt sensitivities. Salt sensitivity is estimated to be present in 51% of the hypertensive (high blood pressure) population.
Salt Sensitivity and Genes
Just with many other conditions, we are finding that our genes play a large role and their expression controls factors such as salt sensitivity and hypertension. In fact, these genes are seen to impact the sympathetic nervous system as well. For individuals who have salt-sensitive hypertension, there has been an association with increased sympathetic activity. The enzymes that are involved in the synthesis of catecholamines have been connected to hypertension but the haplotype of ADRB2 is the only one associated with salt sensitivity.
The ACE and AGT genes are both apart of the Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS). The ACE gene codes for the angiotensin-converting enzyme and is part of the RAS. This system controls the blood pressure by regulating the specific volume of fluids in the body. The ACE gene is highly interesting as it not only controls blood pressure but has been found in those who have greater strength. A study showed that those who had increased ACE and angiotensin mediate greater strength and muscle hypertrophy where lower levels mediate enhanced endurance performance.
The specific genotype we possess has a direct effect on salt sensitivity. Those who have salt sensitivity hypertension likely have the ID genotype. For more information on this study, please refer to the article below:
Salt sensitivity has also been studied in relation to taste. If we think about biting into a crunchy potato chip, what areas on your tongue do you taste salt? For decades, research and scientists have debated if individual neurons are tuned on to respond only to a single taste, like salt, and signal only one taste or if the activity in our neurons can set off more than one taste. What we do know is that our peripheral and central neurons respond to more than one type of stimulus.
If we take away the activity of specific neuron groups, it blocks sodium channels of the membranes on the taste receptor cells. We have the ability to test and distinguish your genes in relation to salt sensitivity and other factors. By understanding your genetic makeup, you have the ability to understand your genetic predisposition as well as take steps that positivity impacts your future and genetics. One specific company we work with is DNA LIfe. In their report DNA Diet, they test and reveal your specific genes in relation to obesity and your sweet tooth. Those who have a higher score when determining the predisposition to sweet foods, tend to prefer sugar over salt. A sample of this test can be seen below:
The heavy impact that genes have on us has more to do with who we are than what we look like. The constant changing and expression of our genes impact our taste and our microbiome, ultimately influencing our overall inflammation and health.
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Personally, I love salt. I have always been a fan of salt over sweets and seeing now how my genetics impact that is fascinating. It brings a whole new layer to the saying “from the kitchen to the genes”. By controlling what we eat, we impact our genes and their expression. It is always a good idea to understand your genes so you know what you are predisposed to and how you can start to make a positive difference in your own health. -Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
Physiological Reviews 2005 85:2, 679-715
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