Sodium Intake And Thirst: Salty Foods May Not Lead To More Drinking

Salt Doesn't Make You Thirsty
Salt doesn't appear to have any effect on whether or not you're thirsty, research shows. nicolas michaud CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You just ate a really salty pretzel. It was soft and delicious and just what your salt-craving taste buds desired. After finishing, you notice that, all of a sudden, you need a drink. Water, soda, Gatorade; literally anything to quench your thirst. Your mouth is the Sahara and you just need that one droplet of liquid to satisfy your needs. So, was it the salt on the pretzel that made you thirsty? Probably, you think. Well, think again. According to new research from the University of Haifa, salt may not be the cause of thirst that we’ve always thought it was.

"Based on the notion that the consumption of salt increases thirst, the concern has arisen that it also leads to an increased consumption of sugary drinks. However, our study found little support for the assumption that salt invariably increases drinking," said Prof. Micah Leshem of the Department of Psychology, who conducted the research.

The study involved 58 student participants, all of whom were there to find out the effect that salt in solid food had on drinking. Participants arrived at the experiment having not eaten, drank anything other than water, or smoked in the previous two hours. On the days they came in, they were given one of three selections of different nuts. One selection was a bowl filled with candied nuts. The second selection was a bowl filled with salted nuts and the third selection featured a bowl filled with nuts that had no additives.

Each participant spent a few hours at the lab where the experiment took place, answering a questionnaire after consuming that day’s ration of nuts. They rated their levels of thirst and were given water bottles to drink. There was no limit on how much water they could consume while they were there.

The researchers found that the level of thirst reported and the amount of water drank was no different between any of the nuts. To extrapolate that information, the researchers took the 10 male and 10 female students who had consumed the largest quantities of salt nuts and tried to find whether or not the large quantity of salt consumed had any effect on the participants' thirst. They found that it did not, meaning that even after consuming a larger amount of salt than the rest of the participants, the 20 people polled didn’t drink more.

What does this mean for you and that salty pretzel you ate? Not much. You were probably just thirsty to begin with.

Source: Does salt cause thirst? It's really not all that certain. University of Haifa. 2015.

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