Does eating too much salt cause weight gain? Salt is probably the most important ingredient in your kitchen or pantry. Used as a universal flavour improver, salt is found in nearly everything you eat and drink.
Salt contains about 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight. Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps your body maintain normal fluid balance and keeps muscles and nerves running smoothly.
But the question is; does eating too much salt cause weight gain? However, excess consumption of salt has been linked to high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
Therefore, people, particularly those with high blood pressure (HBP), have been advised to limit their sodium intake. But what many people didn’t know is that too much salt may also contribute to weight gain.
Several studies, including the one done by Vanderbilt University and published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, have backed this theory.
How Much Is Too Much?
The body needs a small amount of sodium (less than 500 milligrams per day) to function properly, according to the American Heart Association.
Since sodium is naturally found in all foods, it is almost impossible to consume this little amount while maintaining the recommended intake of other important nutrients.
Therefore, various health authorities recommend that healthy adults consume 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day. However, the WHO advises a little higher intake of 2,000 mg (2 grams) of sodium per day
Researchers have warned that sodium intakes above 2,300 mg (2.3 grams) per day (the equivalence of one teaspoon of salt) can adversely affect blood pressure and increase heart disease risk.
Salt Can Make You Eat More
Until recent years, research was mostly focused on the effect of salt on blood pressure. Researchers are now exploring salt’s lesser-known role in hunger and weight gain too.
In 2017, a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville challenged the notion that salty foods make us thirsty.
Instead, they found that people on a high-salt diet actually drink less water than those who have smaller amounts of salt in their diet. However, they also found that a high-salt diet made people become hungrier.
This boost in appetite could make us eat more and that can result in gain weight, the researchers noted.
A previous study by British and Chinese researchers had claimed that eating an extra gram of salt each day increased the risk of obesity in children by 28% and in adults by 26%.
The study authors didn’t explain why salt has this effect, but some experts suggest that salt may change the way our bodies burn fat.
An Australian study published in 2016 also linked high-salt diets with increased risk of obesity in schoolchildren. The authors suggested that salt makes the food taste good, and that encourages children to eat more.
Another possible reason may be that children reach for easily available high-calorie sodas when they get thirsty after a salty meal.
Another Australian study published in 2016 backed this theory that salt improves the flavour, and that likely tempts people to eat more. However, experts call for more research on the role of salt in weight gain.
What is clear though is that consuming a lot of salt can cause your body to retain more water, and lead to water weight gain.