According to new research from McGill University, too much sodium may actually "reprogram" the brain in a way that interferes with a process that normally keeps the body's arterial blood pressure at a healthy level.
"We found that a period of high dietary salt intake in rats causes a biochemical change in the neurons that release vasopressin (VP) into the systemic circulation," one of the study's authors, Dr. Charles Bourque of the McGill University Health Centre, said in a university press release. "This change, which involves a neurotrophic molecule called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), prevents the inhibition of these particular neurons by other cells."
The researchers found that high salt intake prevents the inhibition of VP neurons, which normally occurs through a bodily system that detects pressure in the arteries. When this safety mechanism has been disabled, blood pressure is more likely to rise when sodium is increased in high levels over time.
However, other data suggests that we shouldn't be too worried about sodium. A large-scale study published this week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that higher sodium intake was not correlated with a higher risk of mortality.
The findings were published in the journal Neuron.