Studies Show that High Salt Intake can Lead to Brain Damage
Sodium is a vital part of our daily dietary needs and supplements consumption and has a remarkably significant impact on the cells and nerves in our body. This is one of the reasons why salt intake has been directly related to various heart diseases and blood pressure anomalies.
Endothelial cells present inside the brain’s neural network are primarily responsible for balancing the body’s overall vascular function, but high amounts of sodium can cause these cells to malfunction, leading to an imbalance in the body’s cerebral functioning and problems like cerebrovascular disease, cognitive impairment and even a stroke.
Effects of high sodium diet on other mammals
In a recent study conducted on mice, a team of researchers fed a group of mice with a high sodium diet for a period of 12 weeks whilst monitoring their behavioral traits. After just a few weeks, even though the mice’ blood pressure remained fairly constant, the blood flow to the brain was reduced along with endothelial dysfunction (cited above) along with reduced cognitive abilities. These tests, when repeated on human cells produced similar results with similar dysfunction traits and cognitive impairment.
After a period of three months, the mice even began showing signs of dementia and had problems relating to memory loss, cognition and an inability to do their daily activities including building their nests, identifying objects and finding their most comfortable dwelling spots.
It is noteworthy that even though these findings indicate a strong relation to sodium and human health, the mice were given considerably higher doses of salt over the 12-week period and these symptoms would potentially develop in human much slower, taking probably years or decades.
Effects of sodium on the human body
Human nerve cells responsible for transmitting electrical signals across the body rely on extremely miniscule quantities of electric charges using the body’s electrolytic balance as an “electrical circuit” if you will. A high intake of sodium can disrupt this electrolyte balance inside the body and so is the case when sodium levels are too low and can cause the body to function in an improper fashion.
Having too much sodium in your system can lead to a condition called hypernatremia, initiated by dehydration and causing symptoms like seizures, tiredness, blackouts and headaches in typical mild cases. Having too little sodium in the body can also have adverse effects on its functionality and also lead to hypernatremia due to excessive water intake, diarrhea, kidney issues, liver cirrhosis, vomiting, etc.
In the recent studies conducted on mice, it has been found that excessive salt in the bloodstream can lead to a high production of Th17 in the lower intestine area along with a high production of IL-17 protein in the immune system both of which result in decreased blood flow to the brain due to a decrease in a chemical known as nitric oxide which is one of the components responsible for relaxing the blood vessels for adequate blood flow.
On a lighter note: symptoms are reversible
If you are someone who cannot get enough of salty food, the research also highlights some much-needed good news: It was found that once the mice had resumed their normal sodium diet after the 12-week study, their brain function steadily returned back to normal.
The researchers also studied the effects of an element that is believed to reverse the effects of excessive salt intake (amino acid – L) which also showed the same rehabilitation results as diet control would. One unknown in this hypothesis however is the result of long term diet control over a period of years or decades and whether the reversibility of the bodily functions can be maintained and sustained overtime.
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