British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers


The effects of a reduced-sodium, high-potassium salt substitute on food taste and acceptability in rural northern China

Nicole Lia1 c1, John Prescotta2, Yangfeng Wua3a4a5, Federica Barzia1, Xuequn Yua3a4, Liancheng Zhaoa3, Bruce Neala1 and for the China Salt Substitute Study Collaborative Groupa4

a1 The George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, PO Box M201, Camperdown, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia

a2 School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, NSW, Australia

a3 Cardiovascular Institute and Fuwai Hospital, Beijing, People's Republic of China

a4 The George Institute China, Beijing, People's Republic of China

a5 Peking University Health Science Centre, Beijing, People's Republic of China


A potassium chloride-containing salt substitute lowers blood pressure levels, but its overall acceptability has been of concern due to its potential adverse effects on food taste. In a large-scale, blinded randomised trial evaluating the comparative effects of a salt substitute (65 % sodium chloride, 25 % potassium chloride and 10 % magnesium sulphate) and a normal salt (100 % sodium chloride) on blood pressure, we collected data on the saltiness, flavour and overall acceptability of food. We performed this at baseline, 1, 6 and 12 months post-randomisation using 100 mm visual analogue scales for assessments of both home-cooked foods and a standard salty soup. The mean age of the 608 participants from rural northern China was 60 years and 56 % of them were females. In the primary analyses, the changes in the saltiness, flavour and overall acceptability of both home-cooked foods and a standard salty soup were not different between the randomised groups (all P>0·08). In the secondary analyses, weighting each of the data points according to the lengths of the respective follow-up intervals, the flavour of both home-cooked foods (mean difference = − 1·8 mm, P = 0·045) and a standard salty soup (mean difference = − 1·9 mm, P = 0·03) was slightly weaker in the salt substitute group. We conclude that salt substitution is both an effective and an acceptable means of blood pressure control. Possible small differences in flavour did not importantly deter the use of the salt substitute in this study group, although the acceptability of the salt substitute by a more general population group would need to be confirmed.

(Received January 25 2008)

(Revised June 05 2008)

(Accepted June 28 2008)

(Online publication August 19 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Nicole Li, fax +61 2 9993 4502, email


†  Members listed in acknowledgements.