A new study from Weill Cornell Medicine shows that consuming an excess of sodium may trigger a brain change that leads to lower cognitive function and in time, dementia.

The brain’s vascular system depends on nitric oxide for blood flow and decreasing blood pressure. Increased salt consumption  can cause a drop in the amount of nitric oxide in the body. This drop affects a brain protein called tau. When tau gets affected by the drop of nitric oxide, it starts building up. This tau build-up has been linked previously to Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive issues.

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Studies on the cause of dementia are ongoing, but research has found that lifestyle is a contributor brain health. Lifestyle choices like healthy diet, sleep and exercise are linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

Senior author Dr. Constantino Iadecola said of the study’s implications about salt and diet, “And the stuff that is bad for us doesn’t come from a saltshaker, it comes from processed food and restaurant food,. We’ve got to keep salt in check. It can alter the blood vessels of the brain and do so in vicious way.”

Reducing processed foods in favor of whole, healthy foods in a plant-based diet have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced cancer risk and heart disease.

Want low-sodium recipes? One Green Planet has got you covered. Check out these tips and recipes:

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