In a 2011 study, researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that salt (sodium chloride) may have an inhibitory effect on social anxiety.
Led by first author Eric Krause, Ph.D., the study involved giving rats sodium chloride and then evaluating them on a number of characteristics including response to stress (blood pressure and heart rate) as well as social interaction.
Results of the study showed that rats who were given salt showed reduced cardiovascular response to stress and less anxiety in social interaction. This was dubbed the "Watering Hole Effect," in that those who are thirsty need to be able to set aside social insecurities in order to quench thirst.
How does salt reduce social anxiety? By acting to inhibit the release of stress hormones such as aniotensin II and encourage the release of feel good hormones like oxytocin.
Does that mean you should load up on McDonald's burgers and fries before a big social gathering? Not so fast. More research is needed to extend the findings from rats to humans and determine exactly how salt may be beneficial.
At the very least, the study finding shows that there are many complex systems at work when it comes to social anxiety and the stress response.
What do you think? Could there be a connection between sodium intake and social anxiety?
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