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High salt intake elevates stress in the body

A new study from the University of Edinburgh has revealed that eating an excessive amount of salty food can lead to elevated stress levels. The researchers found that when mice were fed a high-salt diet, levels of a stress hormone increased by 75 percent.

The experts hope their findings will encourage a review of public health policy around salt consumption, which could ultimately lead manufacturers to reduce the amount of sodium in processed food.

While the American Heart Association recommends that adults should consume less than four grams of salt per day, most people eat more than double this amount on a regular basis. The researchers noted that high salt intake causes cardiovascular disease and may contribute to the development of autoimmunity, some cancers, and cognitive impairment. 

While the health risks of excessive salt have been well established, the potential impacts on an individual’s behavior have remained unclear. To investigate, the experts focused on mice who were fed a high-salt diet that was comparable to what most humans consume. 

The results showed that a salty diet increased resting stress hormone levels among the mice, and doubled their hormone response to environmental stress. Furthermore, high salt intake boosted the activity of genes that produce the proteins in the brain which control how the body responds to stress.

According to the experts, further studies are already underway to investigate whether excess salt leads to other behavioral changes such as anxiety and aggression.

“We are what we eat and understanding how high-salt food changes our mental health is an important step to improving wellbeing,” said Professor Matthew Bailey. “We know that eating too much salt damages our heart, blood vessels and kidneys. This study now tells us that high salt in our food also changes the way our brain handles stress.”

The study is published in the journal Cardiovascular Research.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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