Eating Too Much Salt Could Cause Stress Levels to Rise

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In this study, researchers also took tissue samples after mice were euthanized and found increased activity in genes that produce proteins in the brain responsible for stress responses. “It’s interesting to note that these effects are present after two weeks of short-term exposure to a high-salt diet,” says neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine, which studies the link between salt and cognitive impairment. says Giuseppe Faraco, an assistant professor at Physics, who was not involved in the study. But what Faraco wanted to see was data on how hyperactivation of these key genes was related to behavioral responses in mice.

Bailey is working on it. Over the next few years, he will work with neuroscientists to explore how increased salt intake and stress levels manifest themselves in aggression or anxiety-like behavior when mice are placed in specially designed mazes. For example, anxious mice tend to seek safety behind opaque walls and spend more time in enclosed parts of the maze than exploring exposed open parts. tend to spend a lot of time

Lee Gilman, an assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience, has already conducted experiments of this kind in his lab at Kent State University in Ohio, and has shown how salt intake contributes to a phenomenon known as contextual fear generalization. This occurs when the conditioned fear response generated in response to an experienced threat is remembered and extended to safe stimuli. This is considered a characteristic symptom of anxiety-related disorders. “It’s directly related to anxiety processes in the brain,” says Gilman.

A frightened rat freezes when exposed to the same situation as if something threatened. But when conditioned mice go beyond this and freeze in a new environment they’ve never had before, “they generalize fear,” says Gilman. mice were conditioned in a chamber containing a patterned background, ethanol-based scent, and lights, and received mild electric shocks on a stainless steel grid floor.

After four weeks of conditioning, Gilman found that a high-salt diet increased generalized fear responses in women and the same diet decreased fear expression in men, initially surprising neuroscientists. In previous behavioral studies of intake, most researchers only worked with male mice, so these gender differences are only now becoming apparent.

While these two studies advance our understanding of the effects of high-salt diets on the brain, Faraco cautions that caution should be taken when translating the results to humans. There are differences in how animals and humans absorb, use, and metabolize salt, he says. Given the relatively short exposure in animal models compared to lifetime exposure in humans and the known underestimation of salt consumption in humans, it should be interpreted with caution.”

Behavioral research is still in its infancy when it comes to salt, but Bailey and Gilman are working to improve and extend their experiments to track mouse behavior over longer periods of time. cannot be estimated directly in humans, but they hope that people will become a little more conscious of their salt intake, both in general and during abundant times like Christmas. , most consumers pay attention to calories and sugar content when they are served a feast at a communal table. All that could change once we discover how it affects our moods and moods.

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