A high-salt diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which can damage the heart. But that's not all, a diet that contains too much salt can also impair cognitive function and neuronal plasticity. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the Nutrients journal a few days ago (Du et al, Nutrients, Nov 2021).
Too much salt is bad for you
Sodium is an essential substance for the body, indispensable for carrying out certain processes such as the transmission of nerve impulses and normal cellular function. However, excess sodium is associated with high blood pressure and heart problems. Not only that, a harmful action of sodium on the brain has also been observed, although what happens at the level of neurons has not yet been well understood. The research we are talking about today was carried out precisely to fill this gap and also because it is common to consume an excessive amount of sodium through diet.
Neuroplasticity is the loser, here's the experiment
The study was conducted on insects, in particular fruit flies that have proteins and genes very similar to those of humans. What has been observed is that, in fact, a diet that is too high in salt impairs cognitive function. First, a diet of this type leads to an inhibition of the production of nitric oxide. The consequence of a reduced presence of nitric oxide is a reduction in blood flow to the brain. Not only that, too much salt also causes an accumulation of tau proteins in the brain, which is harmful to the tissues.
Then, a high-salt diet inhibits neurotransmitter levels and reduces neuronal plasticity by increasing oxidative stress and reducing the proteins responsible for the synaptic connection between neurons, thus causing a reduction in the brain's ability to repair itself. In this way the normal function of neurons is altered and this explains the decline in cognitive function following a high-salt diet.
Reducing the consumption of salt is therefore essential for the well-being of the body, the heart and, as we now know, of the brain. But be careful, salt is not just what we add to dishes. Various foods may contain salt such as the ready meals or sauces we buy, but also cereals, snacks and even pickled vegetables. It is therefore necessary to carefully read the labels to limit the intake of salt and thus make a beneficial choice for health.