Recent studies show that eating foods with higher levels of salt and sodium more frequently triggers a hormonal process in the body that leads the kidneys to hang onto a bit more water because they’re sensing a bit of dehydration going on thanks to the excess salt intake. To make up for this, the body will start producing more fat and fructose, which is the main component in sugary drinks like soda.
“This is one of those sugars that’s really implicated in fat deposition which, of course, then leads to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and all that,” said SSM Health family medicine physician Dr. Roopa Shah.
Shah said research shows people who are overweight not only tend to overindulge on their salt intake, they also tend to be drinking less water. In general, people are less hydrated than they should be. So the body will produce even more fat because it’s feeling dehydrated in that way as well.
“The message isn’t you should over-hydrate, this is not a situation where more is better,” she said. “It does seem that staying hydrated and avoiding salty foods may be a way to avoid obesity, and some of the complications of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, those types of things.”
While it’s best for the body to cut out foods that are higher in sodium and drink more water, Shah said it’s okay to start small if you aren’t able to cut out salty foods entirely.
“A lot of these lower cost foods, unfortunately, to make them really palatable and taste good, they’re high in salt, and sodium so off the menu, if folks can find the lowest sodium option available, you’re going to get a benefit that way,” she said.
She also said swapping out sugary drinks like soda for water will go a long way.