UK – The human tongue has a particular liking for salty flavor, at times we unconsciously reach for the saltshaker and methodically spread the flavoring agent on our food without even tasting it first.

Consciously we know it’s not a healthy habit, but we mostly can’t help it because what worse could happen anyway, or so we think.

A new study is however adding to existing research on the adverse impacts of a high-sodium diet to our health and may possibly dissuade you from taking that saltshaker the next time lunch or dinner is served.

According to the study which was carried out on mice, high amounts of salt in diets can significantly increase corticosterone – the equivalent of corticosteroid, the so-called “stress hormone” in humans.

“Our study used mice to see what effect this had on one of the body’s main stress response hormones,” Dr. Matthew Bailey, co-author of the study and a professor of renal physiology at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science underscores.

 “We found that when salt intake increased, the resting level of the stress system was turned up – a bit like using a dimmer switch to turn up the lights or turning up the volume on the TV – and it stayed up as long as high salt intake was maintained.”

Additionally, in the study conducted by a UK-based research team, salt was found to double the hormonal response to environmental stressors.

“We also tested the response of the system to an external, environmental stress: the hormone response to stress was much higher when mice were eating salt-rich food.”

The research team behind the study reveals that consuming excessive amounts of the savory ingredient likely has the same effect on people.

Moreover, since high levels of salt and the stress hormone are associated with high blood pressure and increased incidences of stroke and heart attacks, reducing the amount of salt in diets could have an exponential effect on heart health and life span.

We know that we eat too much salt

“We know that we eat too much salt and most of the public health messaging is around blood pressure and heart attacks. Our study shows that [salt-related] bad health problems are more extensive and long term are likely to make changes to our body that make us less healthy and less able to deal with stress.”

Bailey further explains that, though stress hormone is good in the short-term when it helps the body adapt to stressful situations and is part of a normal response to stressful situations, it can also cause problems when that system is “turned up” for long periods of time.

“In this situation, elevated stress hormones can cause immunosuppression, obesity, insulin resistance (Type 2 diabetes) and can also change sleep behaviors and mood,” he explains.

The researchers state that they hope the findings of this study will “encourage a review of public health policy around salt consumption, with a view to manufacturers reducing the amount of salt in processed food.”

The study, published in Cardiovascular Research, also further states that more research will need to be done to see if high salt intake affects other behaviors, such as anxiety and aggression.

The researchers hold that this may be possible since the salt activates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary, which triggers the adrenal glands, initiating the fight or flight response.

For all the latest food industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.