At the University of Iowa some researchers have posited that salt enhances mood, which certainly fits nicely into my own anecdotal experience. Rats were less likely to engage in pleasurable behaviors, such as drink sugary rat goodness, if their salt levels dropped too low. Between the researchers and me we've come up with a few observations about this:
- Salt is a good conductor and probably affects brain function.
- We evolved in a saline environment (the ocean), and have carried on with the same basic chemistry on land.
- Our bodies and minds seek out more salt than we probably need, which could suggest addiction or a system that hasn't adapted to the relative abundance of salt we now have. It's not clear if the reason makes much of a difference in the result.
- Mood elevation that's tied to salt consumption could be caused by the salt, but it also could be the other way around. Maybe the lack of salt causes anxiety, which is alleviated by eating salt and giving the body what it wants.
"One sign of addiction is using a substance even when it's known to be harmful. Many people are told to reduce sodium due to health concerns, but they have trouble doing so because they like the taste and find low-sodium foods bland."Again, it could also be that it takes thousands of years for our bodies to adapt to changing circumstances - two thousand years ago the phrase "common table salt" would have been incomprehensible. The desire for salt could simply be an overexaggeration of a real need.