Why do we crave salt? An evolutionary perspective.

Why do we crave salt? An evolutionary perspective.

Why do we crave salt?

Humans have evolved with salt, not sugar, let's break it down.

In this blog you will learn

How long has salt played a role in human evolution

How long sugar has played a role

Why do we crave salt?

Why do we crave sugar?

How long has the human body needed salt? 🧂

Thinking from an evolutionary perspective, it's commonly theorised that all forms of vertebrates, including mammals, evolved from single celled organisms originating in the ocean. For forms of life to survive and thrive in the saltiest of environments, they would need to evolve a salt regulating system capable of absorbing and re-absorbing salt and water. It's likely that kidneys then originated in the ocean, working synergistically to sustain the precise levels of salt required for proper cell function and hydration. Fast-forward to today, and similar systems are prevalent in maintaining optimal function, ensuring homeostasis in humans. This small but important part of our evolution points to how we as humans can thrive in all geographic locations on the planet, today, with the ability to seek salt out in times of scarcity, and excrete it in times of excess. 

How long has the human body had to work out sugar? 🍭

Whilst the human body has evolved to deal with sodium in times of excess and times of scarcity, with the introduction of refined carbohydrates and processed sugar only being a thing of the last 100 years, a huge increase in the cases of metabolic dysfunction shows that we haven't had a great deal of time to work them both out. Calories that are derived from sugar are particularly problematic when it comes to weight management and general health. 

The higher intake of sugar increases the body's insulin resistance and fat storage, more so than other forms of calories, leading to metabolic disfunction, chronic inflammation, and oxidative stress in the body. Speaking of hydration, higher levels of glucose in the blood even pull water out of your cells, causing cellular dehydration. This water is pushed into your bloodstream, which dilutes your overall salt levels. Furthermore, over consuming sugar can lead to damaging the mitochondria, the powerhouse of your cells, which inevitably leads to a decrease in ATP, increasing your hunger and leaving you with no energy for exercise.

Why do we crave salt? ⚡️

Humans have evolved to thrive with salt, developing specific mechanisms to maintain electrolyte levels in their correct levels needed for optimal function. Seeing where we have evolved, it is no surprise, salt is one of our five taste sensations. The human body has an in-built "salt-thermostat" that helps regulate the right amount of salt we consume. Craving salt is your body sending a signal to your brain to seek more salt to meet your physiological requirements, where the opposite action would be true when you have had enough salt. The delicate balance of body fluid, salt and electrolytes is maintained by this system, and happens without you needing to lift a finger.

Naturally, our bodies will shut off the cravings for salt when we have fulfilled our needs, however overeating salt is something the body is still equipped to deal with, where our kidneys will simply reabsorb less sodium and pass it through the body. Picture it as an overflowing bucket, where more salt takes stress off us to fill the bucket, and not enough creates stress to fill an empty bucket! 

Why do we crave sugar?

Unlike salt being controlled by an ancestral and physiological need, our bodies sugar cravings are either psychological desire, or physiological cravings as a result of low blood sugar, caused by a sugar crash. Craving sugar is a positive feedback system, where when we consume sugar, our bodies want more and more sugar, creating a perpetual cycle of high and low blood sugar, caused entirely by ourselves.

Not all electrolyte drinks are created equal.

Today, the global electrolyte market is focussed more on people's sugar addictions than they are on replenishing essential electrolytes needed for optimal function, physical performance and daily hydration. Even certain "no-sugar" replacements use nasty artificial sweeteners, and lack the adequate amount of electrolytes to make any real difference is one's electrolyte status. One would need to consume multiple ready to drink sports drinks to achieve the same electrolyte levels as one sachet of our Everyday Hydration Salts.

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