Babies fond of salt have higher blood pressure, a granny with hypertension

DALLAS, Aug. 9 Within three days of birth some babies exhibit a unique response to salty taste and the response is strongest in babies who have at least one grandparent with a history of hypertension, according to new research reported in today's rapid access issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Healthy babies who had a "preferential response" to salt taste measured by a relative increase in sucking activity and who had at least one grandparent with a history of high blood pressure had "blood pressures that averaged 5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or more higher than babies who had an aversive or neutral response to salt," says lead author of the study, Stephen H. Zinner, M.D., chairman of medicine at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

This study suggests that salt taste response in newborns might be a "proxy measure of salt sensitivity," he says.

Zinner and colleagues tested 283 healthy babies to determine if their sucking response to taste of salt or sugar was associated with a difference in blood pressure. "Very importantly the response to sweet taste had no relationship [to blood pressure], so there is something apparently specific to the response to salt taste that may be linked to blood pressure," he explains. "These babies were not fed salt. They were exposed to a tiny salt or sugar taste stimulus on the tongue."

Because blood pressure is not routinely measured in healthy newborns, Zinner and his colleagues did not compare blood pressure measurements to normal or set values as would be done in adults. Instead, they grouped infants based on the sucking response to water, water and sugar and water and salt taste. The rate of sucking was measured by the rate of sucking that followed each stimulus increased sucking indicating a preferential response and decreased sucking an aversive response. The response was measured using a rec

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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