London: Salt is addictive in the same way as cigarettes or hard drugs, a study has found. The findings could help explain why many find it so hard to cut back on salt, despite warnings about dangers to blood pressure and heart health a daily mail said on Tuesday.

Australian and American scientists kept some mice on low-salt diets and gave others a salt drip. Activity in their brains was then compared with that in mice fed normally.

Experts also studied the brains of mice that had been starved of salt for three days and then given salty water to drink freely, the Mail said.

When the rodents were in need of salt, brain cells made proteins more usually linked to addiction to substances such as heroin, cocaine and nicotine, according to the said.

Professor Derek Dento, of the University of Melbourne, said, “In this study we have demonstrated that one classic instinct, the hunger for salt, is providing neural organisation that subserves addiction to opiates and cocaine.”

The study revealed that after salt was taken, the brain believes it has received its fix.

'It was amazing to see that the genes that were set 'off' by the loss of sodium were already beginning to get back to the original state within 10 minutes.

“It is an evolutionary mechanism of high survival value because when an animal is depleted of water or salt it can drink what it needs in five to 10 minutes and get out which makes it less susceptible to predators,” the Mail said quoting Denton.

The researchers said that the importance of salt to overall health means that cravings for it form 'an ancient instinct' deeply embedded in the brain.

(Agencies)