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Why We Crave Salt...Maybe

A new theory of why we use so much salt - even though we know it sometimes increases blood pressure - is that it acts as a natural anti-depressant. This latest sprinkle in the salt story comes from the University of Iowa where psychologist Kim Johnson and his team found that rats deprived of sodium chloride are less interested in activities they normally enjoy, a symptom of depression. The investigators didn’t diagnose the rats’ moodiness as full-blown depression, but they said that the animals’ response to sodium deprivation suggests that salt may act in some capacity as a natural anti-depressant. If so, this could explain cravings for salty snacks and why the average worldwide salt intake per individual is about 10 grams daily, much more than the 1,500 mg of sodium the body needs. (Salt is 40 percent sodium.) Johnson and his team also have found changes in brain activity in rats deprived of salt that are the same as those seen when addicted animals are cut off from their drugs, an indication that salt cravings may be linked to brain pathways involved in drug addiction.

Learn more about sodium.

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