Because genetics influences how much salt we love, it’s harder for some people than others to satisfy their taste buds with low-salt foods, according to a study published in Physiology & Behavior and reported in a news release from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

Researchers screened 87 men and women, ages 20 to 40 years old, who sampled salty foods, such as broth, chips and pretzels, over several weeks. The participants rated the intensity of the foods’ salty taste, ranging from barely detectable to strongest sensation of any kind.

Findings showed that certain people, called “supertasters,” experienced taste more intensely than others. These salty-taste-loving folks preferred snack foods (known for their high-salt content) more than non-supertasters.

Supertasters also needed higher levels of salt to block unpleasant tastes or bitterness in foods such as cheese, said John Hayes, PhD, an assistant professor of food science at Penn State, and the study’s lead author.

“Individuals who experience more bitterness also perceive more saltiness in table salt, more sweetness in table sugar, more burn from chili peppers and more tingle from carbonated drinks,” Hayes explained.

But it’s non-tasters who are more likely to add salt to dishes at the table because they need to kick food flavors up a notch before they can get a sample of what makes supertasters smack their lips, Hayes said.

This research on salt preference and consumption could help manufacturers create reduced-salt foods that are more palatable to some people who find them unappetizing, Hayes observed.

Statistics show that Americans consume two to three more times the recommended salt intake. And many doctors believe salt intake can increase high blood pressure and stroke risk.

Hayes recommends consumers lower their salt intake by reading food labels and finding products that contain fewer than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Read RH’s “Salt of the Earth” to learn more about salt and its effects on your body.