Salt appetite in the elderly

Khadeja Hendi, Micah Leshem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated whether salt appetite in the elderly is impaired similar to thirst because of the commonality of their physiological substrates and whether alterations in salt appetite are related to mood. Elderly (65-85 years, n 30) and middle-aged (45-58 years, n 30) men and women were compared in two test sessions. Thirst, psychophysical ratings of taste solutions, dietary Na and energy intakes, seasoning with salt and sugar, number of salty and sweet snacks consumed, preferred amounts of salt in soup and sugar in tea, and an overall measure of salt appetite and its relationship with mood, nocturia and sleep were measured. Elderly participants were found to be less thirsty and respond less to thirst. In contrast, no impairment of salt appetite was found in them, and although they had a reduced dietary Na intake, it dissipated when corrected for their reduced dietary energy intake. Diet composition and Na intake were found to be similar in middle-aged and elderly participants, despite the lesser intake in elderly participants. There were no age-related differences in the intensity of taste or hedonic profile of Na, in salting habits, in tests of salting soup, or number of salty snacks consumed. No relationship of any measure of salt appetite with mood measured by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, frequency of nocturia, or sleep duration was observed. The age-related impairment of the physiology of mineralofluid regulation, while compromising thirst and fluid intake, spares salt appetite, suggesting that salt appetite in humans is not regulated physiologically. Intact salt appetite in the elderly might be utilised judiciously to prevent hyponatraemia, increase thirst and improve appetite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1627
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - 28 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Authors 2014.


  • Diets
  • Elderly
  • Salt appetite
  • Thirst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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