Lowering Sodium Levels: A New Perspective for Cognitive Health

Lowering Sodium Levels: A New Perspective for Cognitive Health

While high sodium consumption is often associated with hypertension, high blood pressure and obesity, a new study suggests it could also negatively impact cognitive impairment.

Warnings against high sodium intake, particularly table salt, have been consistently issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and numerous health-promoting organizations. Now, there’s a fresh perspective from a new study that highlights not only the effects of high sodium on hypertension, but also its correlation with emotional and cognitive impairment. Lowering sodium levels, therefore, appears to be crucial for overall health.

The WHO recommends a daily salt intake of less than five grams, primarily due to the detrimental effects of high salt on cardiovascular health, obesity and non-communicable diseases. A recent study in Japan, however, has discovered that high sodium consumption can also increase certain biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease and symptoms of dementia, reinforcing the importance of lowering sodium levels.

The research demonstrates that excessive intake of table salt can elevate several indicators for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Akihiro Mouri, a professor at Fujita Health University in Toyoake, Japan, and secondary author of the study, emphasizes the social and economic implications of these findings, particularly given the rising costs of dementia treatment in Japan. He suggests that devising preventive and therapeutic solutions for dementia is crucial, considering Japan’s rapidly aging population.

Related: Why are Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Premature Death?

Although studies have associated some diets with lower levels of the Alzheimer’s disease biomarker tau protein, such as the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, this study suggests that high sodium intake contributes to the formation of tau tangles (clusters of tau proteins) in the brain.

The research team utilized a mouse model, feeding the mice a high sodium solution (two percent sodium chloride) in their drinking water for 12 weeks, and noted their blood pressure throughout the study. The mice’s brains exhibited biochemical changes, including an increase in tau-associated phosphates and a decrease in the key brain signaling enzyme, CaMKII. These results underscore the potential benefits of lowering sodium levels for brain health.

The study further revealed that high sodium intake impacts several factors related to brain health. Hypertension induced by high sodium intake, along with interactions between the hormone Ang II and its receptor AT1, and the lipid molecule prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and its receptor EP1, led to emotional and cognitive dysfunction and promoted the Alzheimer’s-related tau protein biomarker.

With an increasing number of countries now grappling with rapidly aging societies, the implications of these findings are significant. Japan is particularly affected because it has one of the largest aging populations in the world and a high prevalence of dementia. The study suggests that effective treatments for the disease are currently lacking and emphasizes the need for novel interventions and preventive measures, such as lowering sodium levels.

“This study is of particular social and economic importance because the annual social cost of dementia treatment in Japan is surging like never before,” Dr. Mouri said in the study. “Therefore, developing preventive and therapeutic drugs for dementia seems critical for Japan’s rapidly aging population.”

In terms of alternatives, there are several salt substitutes available in the market to help consumers lower sodium levels. There are also several brands that offer low-sodium salts, which often contain a blend of sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Some examples include Morton Lite Salt, LoSalt and NoSalt.

Alternatively, natural herbs and spices, like garlic powder, onion powder and basil, can provide a flavorful alternative to salt. Acidic ingredients like vinegar and citrus juice can also mimic the taste-boosting effects of salt. Some companies even offer dried seaweed granules as a salt substitute since they are low in sodium and have a salty taste due to their rich mineral content.