How often do you find yourself craving a tall glass of... salt water?
If you're like the vast majority of the population, the likelihood is probably next to zero. You might assume a correlation from years spent gargling warm salt water for infections or a possible tie to a misspent dip in the ocean, but the real reason is scientific.
Researchers concluded the reason humans don't crave salt water is because our brains are trying to keep the concentration of salt in our bodies in balance.
Zachary Knight, an associate professor in physiology at the University of California, San Francisco and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and his team recently studied the mechanism that tells our brain when too much salt is really too much.
The group started out studying thirst neuron brain cells. It found that cells in our guts are constantly on alert for measuring saltiness, which it then communicates to the brain. (Read the full study report in the journal Nature)
But why do we crave salty food you might ask? Yuki Oka, an assistant professor of biology at Caltech and an author of Chemosensory modulation of neural circuits for sodium appetite found that the answer lies in our taste buds.
"When you put sodium-salt on top of the tongue, and then, when you taste it, that's sufficient to suppress sodium appetite neurons," Oka says. That's how we know to stop eating salt before we've consumed a harmful dose.
If you find yourself wanting to savor some great scientific information, be sure to check out both studies published in the journal Nature: