By feeding mice a high-salt diet similar to that of most humans, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that it caused several levels of stress: levels of stress hormones were elevated even at rest, and their release during environmental stress was twice that of mice fed a normal diet with low salt content. This too could be measured: salt increased the activity of genes in the brain that control how the body responds to stress.
Professor Matthew Bailey, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Understanding how high salt foods change our mental health is an important step towards improving well-being. We know that too much salt damages our heart, blood vessels and kidneys. This study now tells us that high levels of salt in the diet also change the way our brain deals with stress.”
The team, which published the results in the journal Cardiovascular Research, is now conducting further studies to see if high salt intake also contributes to other behavioral changes such as anxiety and aggression.
The recommended salt intake for adults is less than six grams per day, but actual consumption averages around nine grams.
What: DOI 10.1093/cvr/cvac160