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People with Hypertension prefer Saltier Foods, Study Finds

Update Date: May 17, 2014 10:11 AM EDT

Hypertension is a chronic illness that occurs when one's blood pressure levels rise by 140/90 mmHg. Since hypertension can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, it is important to maintain or reduce blood pressure levels through diet, exercise and in some cases, medicine. In a new study, researchers examined the diets of hypertensive people and found that they tend to have a "salt tooth."

For this study, the researchers headed by Patricia Villela from the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil examined 118 participants. The participants were divided into four groups. Two of them included people in their 30s that either had or did not have high blood pressure. The other two groups included people in their 70s who either had normal blood pressure or elevated levels.

The researchers offered all of the participants three different types of French bread that had varying levels of salt. In the younger two groups, the researchers found that the healthier participants, those without hypertension, preferred the "lightly salted" bread option. The healthy people in the older two groups chose to eat the "medium salty" bread. The remaining unhealthy participants who had hypertension in both groups picked the "highly salted" bread. The researchers concluded that hypertensive people have a "salt tooth," which could further increase their risk of heart events.

In the second part of the study, the researchers offered the groups three bread options with the same varying levels of salt. However, this time, the bread was also seasoned with oregano, a salt-free spice. This time around, the researchers found that all four groups picked the bread options that had less salt. The team reported that even though hypertensive people like saltier foods, the flavor could be replaced with other seasonings.

"It is important to know that alternative spices could reduce sodium [salt] intake and potentially lower blood pressure," Dr. William White, current president of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH), said according to Philly.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in New York City.

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