This week is the oft-forgotten Salt Awareness Week (Monday 20th to Sunday 27th March). Whilst most of us are aware that too much eating too much salt can raise blood pressure, at Cognacity Towers we wondered if salt can impact on mental conditions such as depression and anxiety?
We pride ourselves at Cognacity on basing our work around evidence and so we hit the archives to see if there was an answer. It didn’t take long to find a scientific report from way back in the 1940s that suggests cutting salt intake can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Lower salt intake for better mental health
The findings of a low salt diet for “insomnia and tension states” were published in the Journal of the American Association in 1945 (1). Patients with “pronounced insomnia, nervous tension, anxiety and increased emotional liability” were instructed to follow a low salt diet with striking results.
After a week of a low salt diet the “majority of patients began to exhibit a gradual decline in nervous tension, activity drive and restlessness, accompanied by an increased ability to fall asleep and general improvement in the character of sleep.” The study recorded that patients “tended to retire to bed at an earlier hour, usually falling asleep within ten to fifteen minutes and sleeping soundly until wakened at 6am.”
After several weeks the study also noted that the low salt diet also improved blood pressure, brain wave activity and concentration while reducing emotional reactivity and vivid dreaming.
Salt in the modern world
Salt guidelines suggest that an adult should consume no more than 6g of salt per day – that’s roughly one level teaspoon. However, many of us add salt to meals and using ingredients that have ‘hidden’ salt means that the average UK adult consumes a massive 8g of salt each day.
Cut down salt at work
It isn’t too late to take action during salt awareness week and encourage your fellow employees to potentially help improve their mental and heart health by eating less salt. Here are some Cognacity tips for cutting down on salt at work:
Swapping snacks – Switch salty snacks such as crisps for fruit and vegetables. This will help you aim for your 5 A Day.
Food labels – Use food labels to help choose lower salt foods for lunches and foods you’re buying to share with your team.
Healthy team lunch – Arrange a regular healthy team lunch – great for team-bonding too! Encourage everyone to bring in a low salt dish to share.
1. Miller, M. Low sodium chloride intake in the treatment of insomnia and tension states. JAMA. 1945. 129; 4: 262-266.
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