Salt may make humans happy

By • Published: June 23rd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Every night, at dinner tables across the country, a silent war is raging… between average Americans and their salt shakers.

You know you shouldn’t. But you just can’t help it. You want that extra sprinkle of salt on your already salt-encrusted French fries. You need your carrots doused with a dash of sodium.

Yes, studies show Americans ingest too much sodium, mostly because pre-packaged foods are overloaded with it. But researchers are also finding there may actually be a reason so many of us crave a little extra salt with our salt. Salt may actually make you happy.

University of Iowa researchers discovered rats seemed less interested in activities they usually loved when they were deprived of salt. The rodents returned to their normal behavior after salt was reintroduced to their diets.

Why? Researchers aren’t sure. But those seemingly senseless urges for salt could have more to do with evolution than how much sodium your body actually needs. Long before evolution shaped humans into land-lubbing salt cravers, we were creatures of the salty seas. Our bodies still need salt to live and our brains are wired to reward us for tasting it.

But as happy as salt may make us, eating too many salty foods can be a problem if you have hypertension or a chronic illness like heart or kidney failure. U-S dietary guidelines suggest sticking to under twenty-three-hundred milligrams of sodium each day.

On the bright side, your bottle of salt may last longer. And you just might, too.