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Physiol Behav. 1986;37(2):279-84.

Salt taste preference in baboons.


Dietary salt (NaCl) has been implicated in the etiology of hypertension and atherosclerosis, although its role remains controversial. The human preference for salted foods is well-known and many investigators believe the taste for salt is acquired. An experiment we conducted suggests that the baboon does not have an acquired taste for salt. A sample of 36 baboons from a population of 70 baboons of known sire, sex, and dietary history was used; each had been raised since birth on a diet of fixed salt content in a study of dietary salt and blood pressure. Given this unique group of animals, we decided to test whether baboons raised on one dietary salt level (low, medium, or high) would prefer a different level. After baseline consumption was measured for 9 days, we offered each animal equal amounts of all 3 diets simultaneously in a counterbalanced randomized sequence for 9 days, controlling for tray position preference and color preference. We measured consumption of each diet by weighing the amount of food remaining. Our statistical analyses indicated an overwhelming preference for the lowest dietary salt level, regardless of which diet the animal had been fed since birth (p less than 0.0001).

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