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Should We Blame Salt For Our Headaches?

Dec 15, 2014 08:53 PM EST

You may not want to go as crazy with those holiday dinners and desserts as you intended. Otherwise you might just wind up with a lot of splitting headaches. A new study has linked salt with headaches, and surprisingly, this effect is unrelated to the fact that salt is also known to raise blood pressure.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal Open, details how 390 healthy individuals were put on either a traditional Western diet, or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet - which is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products with reduced saturated and total fat.

According to the study, the participants were assessed for three 30-day periods, during which time they answered questionnaires about the frequency and severity of their headaches. They were asked to supplement their prescribed diets with high sodium foods during the first period, intermediate sodium during the second period, and low sodium during the third.

Results showed that people who ate foods with a high salt content - around eight grams per day - had one third more headaches than those who ate foods low in sodium - around four grams per day. Additionally, the researchers observed that this difference remained whether the volunteers ate the standard Western diet or the DASH diet.

"It is noteworthy that there was no significant relationship between diet pattern and headache," the researchers wrote. "This suggests that a process that is independent of blood pressure may mediate the relationship between sodium and headaches."

The researchers added that Americans should be particularly concerned about these results, as many US citizens consume far more daily sodium than the participants ever did, even in the first 30 days.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), most people in the United States consume about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, which is more than twice the 1,500 mg suggested by health professionals.

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