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Study suggests salt might be 'nature's antidepressant'
Date:3/10/2009

Most people consume far too much salt, and a University of Iowa researcher has discovered one potential reason we crave it: it might put us in a better mood.

UI psychologist Kim Johnson and colleagues found in their research that when rats are deficient in sodium chloride, common table salt, they shy away from activities they normally enjoy, like drinking a sugary substance or pressing a bar that stimulates a pleasant sensation in their brains.

"Things that normally would be pleasurable for rats didn't elicit the same degree of relish, which leads us to believe that a salt deficit and the craving associated with it can induce one of the key symptoms associated with depression," Johnson said.

The UI researchers can't say it is full-blown depression because several criteria factor into such a diagnosis, but a loss of pleasure in normally pleasing activities is one of the most important features of psychological depression. And, the idea that salt is a natural mood-elevating substance could help explain why we're so tempted to over-ingest it, even though it's known to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.

Past research has shown that the worldwide average for salt intake per individual is about 10 grams per day, which is greater than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended intake by about 4 grams, and may exceed what the body actually needs by more than 8 grams.

Johnson, who holds appointments in psychology and integrative physiology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in pharmacology in the Carver College of Medicine, published a review of these findings in the July issue of the journal Physiology & Behavior with Michael J. Morris and Elisa S. Na, UI graduate students. In addition to reporting their own findings, the authors reviewed others' research on the reasons behind salt appetite.

High levels of salt are contained in everything from panca
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Contact: Nicole Riehl
nicole-riehl@uiowa.edu
319-384-0070
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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