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Salty Diets May Delay Puberty

May 18, 2015 12:17 PM EDT

(Photo : mizina / Fotolia)

Salt: it may make our food taste better, but like any good thing, it's always best in moderation. Too much salt has been tied to increased blood pressure, and now it seems high salt diets may also delay the onset of puberty, according to a new study.

As the salt content of Western diets continues to increase - no doubt helping the childhood obesity epidemic - these findings could have significant consequences for the reproductive health of future generations.

To better understand how salt can impact puberty in kids, a team from the University of Wyoming tested the effect of varying levels of dietary salt in rats. They found that rats fed a high salt diet - that is, 3 to 4 times the recommended daily intake for humans - had a significant delay in reaching puberty compared to those fed a normal (low) salt diet. Interestingly, rats that had salt completely excluded from their diet also had delayed puberty.

According to the researchers, their results suggest that salt intake is necessary for the onset of puberty, but that too much can affect reproductive health. Reaching puberty late in life may not seem like a big deal, meaning simply that person is a late bloomer, but it can actually lead to behavioral problems, stress and reduced fertility, researchers say.

"High fat diet is thought to accelerate the onset of puberty but our work demonstrates that rats fed a high salt diet even with a high fat diet will still show a delay in puberty onset," researcher Dori Pitynski, who led the study, said in a statement.

"Our research highlights for the first time that the salt content of a diet has a more significant effect on reproductive health than the fat content," she added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults should be consuming no more than five grams of salt per day. However, despite their recommendation, it seems that populations around the world are still consuming much more salt than they need.

Salt is found naturally in a variety of foods, including milk, cream and eggs. It is also found, in much higher amounts, in processed foods such as bread, processed meats like bacon and snack foods, as well as in condiments, which are all becoming more popular in the Western diet.

"Current salt-loading in Western populations has the potential to drastically affect reproductive health, and warrants further attention," Pitynski concluded.

The findings were presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Dublin.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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