Acculturation of immigrant diet, basic taste responses and sodium appetite

Micah Leshem, Haymanot Dessie-Navon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In young new Ethiopian immigrants (EI, about 0 5 years since immigration; n 20), veteran Ethiopian immigrant students (ES, about 13 years since immigration; n 30) and native Israeli students (NS; n 82), dietary macronutrients and electrolytes, and responses to basic tastes were compared in a cross-sectional design. From EI, to ES, to NS, dietary energy, protein, fat, and Na+ increase, whereas carbohydrates, K+ and Ca2+ do not differ. Corrected for energy intake, only Na+ increases. EI consume less dietary Na+, like foods with less Na+ content, salt their food less, yet show a greater hedonic response to salt taste. In contrast, preference for sweet does not differ. Taste psychophysics, 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) responses and lingual fungiform papillae density differ by group (and sex), but do not relate to dietary intake. Together, these changes could reflect dietary acculturation, increasing overall intake, Na+ in particular, accompanied by decreasing taste sensitivity, and changes in sensory perception and preference in these Ethiopian immigrants. The fact that immigrants find salt more hedonic, yet eat less of it, could suggest increased sensitivity to its taste, and might suggest restoring sensitivity to reduce Na+ intake for all. Similar alterations in taste sensory responses might be obtained in other forms of dietary flux. Understanding dietary acculturation can focus efforts (e.g. on Na+), to anticipate the disease burden of diets of affluence among immigrants. Yet, these immigrants' nutrition is healthier in its low fat and Na+, suggesting that nutritional advice should focus on preservation, as well as prevention. Our study adds Ethiopian nutritional acculturation to that of the varied immigrant groups around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21
JournalJournal of Nutritional Science
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • 6-n-Propylthiouracil (PROP)
  • Basic tastes
  • Dietary acculturation
  • Ethiopian immigrants
  • Lingual papillae
  • Salt appetite
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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