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Addiction to Salt Starts at an Early Age, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- If you were exposed to treats rich in sodium during your infancy, chances are that's where your lifelong addiction to salty foods came from.

A new study from the Monell Center found that kids who started nibbling on starchy table foods at the age of six months seem to enjoy these salty treats more than babies who were steered away from them. Results of a preference test showed that children who had been exposed to starchy foods ate 55 percent more salt than infants who hadn't been exposed to them yet.

The strong role of early dietary experience was also evident in preschool, according to the researchers, as the kids who were turned on to salty foods were also more inclined to use plain salt than their contemporaries who didn't eat starchy treats.

Lead author Leslie J. Stein, Ph.D., a physiological psychologist at Monell, concluded, "More and more evidence is showing us that the first months of life constitute a sensitive period for shaping flavor preferences.  In light of the health consequences of excess sodium intake, we asked if the effect of early experience extended to salt."

Health experts have been trying to wean Americans off of salt for years, arguing that reducting intake would save 100,000 lives annually, not to mention billions in medical costs, since sodium is linked to hypertension, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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