Contrary to popular belief, a new study revealed that eating foods with high salt content will most likely make you hungrier instead of making you thirsty.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigations, showed that a high-salt diet actually forces the body to retain water and produce urea, which helps the kidneys reabsorb the water and excrete excess salt. The production of urea consumes a lot of energy. In order for the body to keep up with the production of urea, it needs more energy that can be acquired through muscle wasting or eating more food.
For the study, the researchers enrolled 10 healthy men and put them in two separate space flight simulations. One of the group spent 105 days in the simulation, while the other lasted 205 days. The diet of each group is closely monitored, with both of them receiving identical diets. However, each man was given three different levels of salt intake -- either 12 grams, 9 grams or 6 grams daily.
The researchers observed that the participants drink lesser water as the levels of salt intake increases. This debunks the popular belief that salt induces water loss. The researchers noted that their observations suggest that the biological principle of salt excretion is actually water conservation and water production.
To compensate for the energy used for the water retention, the body needs to take in more fuel or break down muscle mass (muscle wasting). The researchers noted that muscle wasting is "a high price to pay for avoiding dehydration".
A subsequent mice study showed that high salt intake leads to a catabolic state driven by glucocorticoids, breaking down muscle protein and converting it to urea. Increased levels of glucocorticoids are considered as an independent risk factor for obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
As an alternative to muscle wasting, the body seeks for more fuel. This explains why the participants complained that they were hungry.
According to CDC's Sodium and Dietary Guidelines, people are recommended to consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. Processed foods and restaurant meals are considered to be the top source of high sodium intake.
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