University of Edinburgh

Festive foods taste delicious. The reason is they are high in fats, sugars, and/or salts. Often, during holidays, we eat a lot of these foods. And our salt levels in the body might rise. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh carried out an experiment in mice to know the effect of excessive salt on emotions. What did they find?

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Salts and emotions

We all yearn to have delicious meals that satisfies our taste buds and makes us happy and content. And delicious foods are invariably also unhealthy. This is because they are high in refined unnatural sugars, saturated fats, and salts. All these can affect the body in a negative way. We have added salts in our Christmas foods that include turkey, potatoes, gravies, and also the crisps, cheeses and such snacks.

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High salt foods (Source: Everyday health)

We are aware of the effects of salts on our physical body. With increased salt intake, there is a rise in blood pressure. This burdens the heart that could cause heart failure and heart attacks. Moreover, high blood pressure is a risk factor for plaques in arteries and atherosclerosis. These lead to increased clot formation and strokes.

And scientists feel that salts can also affect our emotions, stress levels, and behavior. To determine this, researchers from the University of Edinburgh conducted an animal study on mice.

The study of the University of Edinburgh

The scientists from the University of Edinburgh wanted to know the effect of high salts intake on stress. Knowing the physical ill effect of salts, it would be unethical to give it to humans. Hence the research team administered a higher salt amount to mice. Later, they tested its effects on the behavior of mice. Mice like humans do not consume a lot of salt.

University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh (Source: Top universities)

And their anatomy, physiology and genes are closely similar to humans. Matthew Bailey, a professor of renal physiology at the university and his team fed make mice high salt diet for 2 or 8 weeks.

The team then set to measure the levels of the stress hormone in these mice. They assayed the blood to determine how much of cortisol hormone is present in them.

The findings

The team found that the stress hormone cortisol was higher in mice fed a high salt diet compared to those on a low salt diet. This was higher when in the resting phase as well as during a stressful state such as when restraining them. And the effect was an amplified one. Matthew added:

“It’s like a dimmer switch in a light,”

“The stress system was kind of turned on a little bit more.”

Further, he summarizes:

“I think that for some people, the diet that we’re eating is going to make us deal with it less well than we would otherwise,”

University of Edinburgh
High stress with high salt intake (Source: Boldsky)

The mice tissue also had increased activity of genes that produce proteins for stress in the body. Giuseppe Faraco, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine was not part of this study. But he expressed:

“It is interesting to notice that these effects are present after a brief exposure of two weeks to a high-salt diet,”

Also, read Reasons for constipation on healthier diets: Learn how to fix it!

Matthew plans to collaborate with neuroscientists and further study this aspect of the effect of salt on emotions and behavior of humans.