Too much stress, anxiety and nervousness? Perhaps the cause is to be found in the diet and, in particular, in the amount of salt that is taken every day. This is the result of a very recent scientific research published in the journal Cardiovascular Research by a team from the United Kingdom of the University of Edinburgh (Costello et al, Cardiovascular Research, Nov 2022).
Salt, risks and benefits
Salt in itself should not be demonized. If within the limits, salt brings essential nutrients to our body to activate and complete various vital processes, such as the transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction or blood pressure regulation. The American Heart Association indicates 6 grams of salt as a daily limit, which decreases to 4 grams in the presence of hypertension, although in reality, between salt added directly to dishes and that already present in purchased foods, these limits are exceeded, and by a lot, representing a health problem. In fact, salt when it is in excess is harmful, increasing blood pressure and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. The effects of salt on the cardiovascular system are therefore well known. However, the same cannot be said for the effects of salt on stress levels. Scientists have hypothesized that there may be an association between the salt consumed and levels of stress and anxiety. In fact, previous studies had observed a link between salt intake and values of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Too much salt increases stress, the study
In order to shed light on the link between salt and stress, scientists performed a laboratory study on a population of mice. The mice, which had normally been fed a low-sodium diet, were given foods high in salt in order to mimic what happens in humans who eat a high-salt diet. Well, what emerged was that stress hormones increased in mice fed a high-salt diet. And what's important, not only are the levels of stress hormones at rest increased, but also those released during a stressor. Basically, what the scientists observed is that excess salt increased the stress response by a factor of two. An increase in stress hormones both at rest and during a stressful event is a problem, because chronic and excessive stress increases the risk of impaired cognitive function but also of developing anxiety, depression, irritation and aggression.
Today we had further proof that the amount of salt taken in the diet should be limited, not only for the health of the heart and blood vessels but also for how we respond to stressful situations. Too much salt causes you to overreact to any stressful factor and can generate a chronic stress condition with long-term effects which can be an increase in anxiety, depression, panic attacks but also aggression and anger. It is therefore important to make an effort to return to savoring foods as they present themselves, without the need for the addition of salt, which instead hides the aromas. In addition, to flavor the dishes we can use spices, which do not make you feel the lack of salt, such as garlic, onion, curry, turmeric, pepper but also aromatic herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme and marjoram!