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Salt Addiction? Why French Fries Are So Good

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No one can resist a good, crisp, fresh, hot, salty french fry.

A new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, may have figured out just why you get a hankering for crispy little potato sticks and other comfort food. The answer may lie in the salt.

The study, conducted with control and hypernatremia (high salt) groups of rats, showed that rats with increased salt levels showed less activity in the stress systems of their brains than those with normal salt levels. Researchers found the when restrained the animals that had higher salt levels were actually less stressed.

But brain activity isn't the only indicator of why salt makes you feel good.

From TIME:

Moreover, the hypernatremic rats had elevated levels of oxytocin -- a compound known as the "love hormone" for its role in helping to create social bonds, between friends, lovers or parents and children. Oxytocin is crucial to the processes that allow love and social contact to reduce stress. Not surprisingly, rats with lots of oxytocin showed less anxiety in social interactions.

As a result, the researchers believe they can draw a connection between communal "watering hole" drinking practices and high salt, according to TIME. They believe that decreased stress as a result of hypernatremia leads animals to come together in order to find a good water source.

In scientific terms, from the study:

The implications are that the compensatory responses that promote renal-sodium excretion when faced with hypernatremia also act on the nervous system to decrease reactivity to psychogenic stressors and facilitate social behavior, which may suppress the anxiety associated with approaching a communal water source and support the social interactions that may be encountered when engaging in drinking behavior.

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