According to a new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience, a diet rich in salt starves the brain of blood, causing cognitive impairment and a decline in mental performance.
During the study, researchers fed mice a super salty diet and found that the creatures had lost most of their maze-solving skills. Eventually, the mice developed such bad reflexes that they didn’t react normally when researchers flicked their whiskers.
Of course, it’s no secret that a diet containing too much salt is bad for you.
But what’s different about this test is that researchers noticed the salt affected brainpower even in the absence of the high blood pressure that usually takes the credit for salt’s effect on cognitive abilities.
“The brain is a prime target of the harmful effects of salt,” the study states, in reference to the discovery that the brain is not merely affected by salt on a secondary level.
“We report that mice fed a high-salt diet develop marked cerebral hypoperfusion and a profound alteration in the endothelial regulation of the cerebral microcirculation, leading to subsequent cognitive impairment.”
After three months of the study, things got so bad for the mice that they became “demented,” according to Dr. Costantino Iadecola in an interview with ABC Australian News.
“Mice are very curious and they like to look for new things,” Dr. Iadecola also stated in the interview. “Over time the mouse lost the ability to identify a normal object.”
So what does this mean for us larger mammals?
As IFLScience reports, researchers believe the effect seen in mice also occurs in humans who consume too much salt. Previous research has found that salty diets do cause a decrease in human brain function. Thanks to this latest study, however, we know this may be the result of more than just increased blood pressure.
The moral of the story? Limit your salt intake.
But wait… what’s food without salt? It’s just tasteless, isn’t it?
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