Salt is a such a common ingredient in a whole range of foods that genetic testing to assess salt sensitivity can be enlightening, helping us to make informed choices about our own personal intake of salt.
A high dietary sodium intake can cause hypertension, high blood pressure, in susceptible individuals. Salt is comprised of chloride and sodium, but it is the sodium that is associated with high blood pressure.
There are several genes found to be associated with salt sensitivity. The two genes analysed by DNAFit genetic test are ACE and AGT.
ACE and AGT are enzymes involved in blood pressure control and electrolyte balance, where the activity of the enzymes increase blood vessel constriction thereby increasing blood pressure.
Genetic testing revealed I have the II allele of the ACE gene, associated with increases in blood pressure, particularly when sodium is present in high levels in the diet. I am therefore classed as having a high sensitivity to salt.
So genetics and science say I am sensitive to salt and susceptible to high blood pressure, yet my blood pressure, as checked regularly by my GP, remains normal to low. Why?
Both my mother and maternal grandmother suffered with high blood pressure for most of their lives so my own genetic susceptibility to high blood pressure comes as no surprise to me. Why then am I not following the same health path as the the other women in my family?
This is where the fascinating field of nutrigenomics and gene expression come in to play. The food we eat has the ability to affect gene expression. My mother ate a diet relatively high in processed foods, at least for most of her life, and was much less informed about food and health. My maternal grandmother ate healthier in her younger days, but knew nothing about the dangers of adding salt to her meals.
On the other hand my own diet, certainly in the last 15 years, is 90% fresh whole food with minimal processed food, which contains hidden salt, so I consume low levels of sodium. If I did eat a highly processed diet with minimal fresh vegetables and fruit I suspect my blood pressure may gradually creep upwards.
Now that I am armed with my own personal genetic profile I have the knowledge to make informed choices about my own personal diet to maximise my health potential. This feels very empowering.
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Helen Morton, registered Nutritional Therapist. sports nutritionist, runner and food lover, sharing latest nutrition research and recipes.