Australian scientists have identified the part of the brain responsible for salt addiction, considered one of the main causes of heart disease.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Howard Florey Institute are hopeful that the discovery of the pathway could help develop a drug to suppress salt cravings and promote healthy eating, Xinhua news agency reported.
The team is even hopeful that the discovery could lead to treatments for other addictions that use the same pathways in the brain such as heroin, morphine and other opiate-based painkillers.
Craig Smith, a neuroscientist at the Florey Institute, said the brain’s opioid system had long been known to be associated with the feeling of reward generated from eating food containing high salt content.
Using a process of elimination, researchers were able to discover the location of the “salt-seeking wiring” in the brain for the first time.
“It wasn’t known until now that our natural opioids working in this emotional hotspot drove salt cravings,” Smith said.
“Switching off salt cravings would promote a healthier diet and food choices.
“Because at the moment you know the salad is healthy but you crave the junk food for the salt.
“It’s tasty and it’s in a lot of food. But we eat too much of it.”
A report by Victorian health authority Better Health in 2014 warned that Victorians are eating triple the recommended daily salt intake.