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Heart Failure Patients Have Impaired Taste for Salt

by U.S. Medicine

May 31, 2017

NEW YORK – Do heart failure patients lose their taste for salt?

A new study published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure suggests that is a possibility.

Background information in the article pointed out that heart failure (HF) disproportionately afflicts older adults and that dietary sodium indiscretion is often implicated in HF decompensation.

Because the affinity for and ability to taste salt in this process is unexplored, a study team involving researchers from the Ann Arbor, MI, VA Health System set out to evaluate differences in salt taste by age and HF diagnosis and to map changes following hospitalization for acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF).

To do so, they conducted initial salt-taste testing for 72 participants during hospitalization for ADHF. Follow-up taste testing occurred at discharge, as well as one, four or 12-weeks following hospitalization.

Included as controls were three different groups which underwent one-time salt taste testing: 10 patients with stable HF, 10 healthy older adults, and 10 healthy younger adults.

Salt taste testing used commercially available and validated Salsave test strips with increasing concentrations of NaCl (ranging 0.6-1.6 mg/cm2 ) in order to identify salt-taste recognition threshold, researchers reported.

Results indicate that the baseline salt taste recognition threshold was lowest in the young healthy control group (0.62 [SD 0.05] mg/cm2 NaCl) compared to the healthy older controls (0.92 [SD 0.29] mg/cm2 NaCl), stable HF outpatients, (1.06 [SD 0.22] mg/cm2 NaCl) and ADHF subjects on admission (1.06 [SD 0.48] mg/cm2 NaCl).

The study also determined a strong trend toward higher recognition threshold in HF patients, despite age or other potential confounders.

At the same time, serial salt taste testing in the ADHF group demonstrated a decrease in recognition threshold that persisted over the 12-weeks following discharge.

 “When compared with young healthy controls, HF patients have impaired recognition of salt taste,” study authors concluded. “The salt taste recognition threshold decreases following hospitalization for ADHF. This change demonstrates the first evidence of the phenomenon known as the ‘hedonic shift’ in HF, in which the threshold to recognize salt taste decreases following prescribed sodium restriction.”


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