A new study has helped to better understand why people crave salt, even when they know it could jeopardise their health.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, could help researchers determine how the brain controls appetite and the effect of this on blood pressure levels.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used lab models to remove a gene in the brain that is known to be linked with high blood pressure in humans. However, what controls the activity of the gene is unclear.
The team found that removing the gene caused an increase in an appetite for salt, increasing consumption by up to three times. This suggests that the gene plays a key role in controlling cravings for salt and its knock-on impact on blood pressure.
Researchers hope these findings will lead to a drug being developed that can help people with heart disease better manage the amount of salt they eat, which will help to prevent further problems caused by high blood pressure.
The trial also found that consuming salt causes high blood pressure, but that it returned to normal as soon as the amount of salt being eaten was reduced.
Researchers will now start looking into whether or not an affordable drug - already used to treat heart disease in some countries - can help to control salt intake for patients with heart disease.
Dr Matthew Bailey, who led the study at the University of Edinburgh and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said people routinely eat too much salt, which has an impact on the heart, kidneys and blood vessels.
"Our study shows that we have a genetic drive to consume salty food. Understanding how this process works may help us reduce the amount of salt we eat and make it easier for people to follow low-salt diets," Dr Bailey added.
Find the nearest Barchester care home.