There’s a reason bars leave out bowls of nuts or pretzels: the salt is meant to make you thirstier, which is meant to make you spend more money on their drinks. After all, it is common knowledge that salt makes you thirsty.
However, according to a new study published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, high sodium intake actually decreases the amount of water you drink and increases the feeling of hunger. According to the authors, this suggests that diets with lots of salt may contribute to weight gain.
Experts claim that this discovery changes the way we’ve thought about salt for more than 100 years, and is just counterintuitive.
The study, which was published in two sets of papers, used 10 people. Participants' salt intake was decreased from 12 grams a day to 6 grams.
To much surprise, men began to drink more water as their sodium intake decreased. According to the study's senior author Jens Titze, the discovery wasn’t expected, but also wasn’t entirely a shock. “It makes sense that on a high-salt diet, the body wants to prevent water loss. So the kidneys have to find a way to increase water content, and if you have more water content in your body, you’re going to be less thirsty.”
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They also reported feeling hungrier with the higher salt levels even though they were still consuming the same amount of nutrients. It’s explained that this could be because it takes more energy for the body to conserve water because they’re drinking less of it on the high sodium levels.
Researchers intended to replicate the findings for the second paper only this time, using mice. They discovered the same results in hunger and thirst, as well as a breakdown in muscle protein on high-salt diets. The protein was converted to a chemical that allows kidneys to reabsorb fluid to prevent water loss. This process was fueled by an increase in glucocorticoids, which are compounds in people that have been linked to the development of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
So if you are thinking about losing even just a little bit of weight, you may want to cut back on the salt. It seems it could help you have a bit more control over your hunger.