How Low-Salt Diets Give Fuel to Addictions

The Salty Truth: Episode 6: How Eating Salt Can Keep Your Reward System in Normal Mode

Marla Szwast
Aug 19, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by Emmy Smith on Unsplash

“It’s time to set the record straight about the health-protecting, lifesaving nature of salt cravings — and drop the guilt for good.” — Dr. James DiNicolantonio, The Salt Fix.

Dr. James DiNicolantonio explains that salt itself is not addictive, but there is a connection between salt and addiction. This connection is that being salt deprived makes you more vulnerable to addictive substances, including sugar.

“The origin of the myth all goes back to the moment we stopped looking at salt as an essential, life-giving force — and started seeing it as a hedonistic indulgence, a human appetite to be managed as opposed to trusted.” Dr. DiNicolantonio

Expert Population Data is used to form and perpetuate myths like this more often than you might think. There never was any real science that too much salt is harmful. Or that salt is addictive (depending on you age and country of origin you may or may not have been taught this myth). But because people with low salt diets ate more salt when it was available, it was decided salt must be addictive. Hopefully you can see the lack of reasoning here. If we take starving people and give them an endless supply of broccoli , and they respond by eating a lot more broccoli than they did before it was available, does that mean broccoli is addictive?

“Your body knows better than experts how much salt it needs — and telling someone to restrict their salt intake is akin to telling someone to restrict their water intake when they are thirsty. It just makes no biological sense.” Dr. DiNicolantonio

Although salt is not addictive our brain does have a reward system surrounding salt. When we need more this system in our brain turns up, and when we eat salt we are rewarded with pleasure. But when we get enough salt, the system turn back down, and we do no longer get a pleasure reward.

“In fact, people with obesity, ADHD, and drug addiction to cocaine and heroin share a similar brain signature. All three have the same down regulation of the dopamine D2 receptors in the brain, indicating a lack of normal dopamine function in all three conditions.” Dr. DiNicolantonio

Is it worth the risks to limit your salt intake?

Marla Szwast

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A mom who writes, in the cracks of time, between educating, chauffeuring and feeding half a dozen kids.