'Tavern owners can reduce the amount of salt in their bar snacks without compromising their drink sales or customer health.' (Shutterstock.com)
‘Tavern owners can reduce the amount of salt in their bar snacks without compromising their drink sales or customer health.’ (Shutterstock.com)

Conventional wisdom maintains that eating salty foods makes us thirsty and it is for this reason that many bars and restaurants add salt to food to try and make customers drink more. But now, a new University of Haifa study shows that eating salty foods doesn’t necessarily increase a sense of thirst.

“Based on the notion that the consumption of salt increases thirst, the concern has arisen that it also leads to an increased consumption of sugary drinks. However, our study found little support for the assumption that salt invariably increases drinking,” said Prof. Micah Leshem of the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa.

The study looked at 58 student participants who came to Leshem’s lab every few days after not having eaten or drunk anything except water, and not having smoked, for two hours. They were asked to taste nuts – one time sugary candied nuts, another time salted nuts, and a third time nuts with no additives. They rated their level of thirst and, during a couple of hours in which they responded to various questionnaires, they got bottles of water. Each subject could drink as much water as he or she wanted.

The main finding was that the level of reported thirst and the actual quantity of water that the subjects drank after eating salty nuts was not different than following consumption of candied nuts or nuts without added flavors.

The researchers then selected the 10 male and 10 female students who had consumed the largest quantities of salt (an average of 4.4 grams and 3.7 grams respectively) and sought to determine whether within this subgroup there was a connection between thirst and drinking. Again, no such correlation was found.

The study also addresses the issues of healthier eating and obesity. Leshem said there is no need said “based on the findings, tavern owners can reduce the amount of salt in their bar snacks without compromising their drink sales or customer health.”

He also noted that because many of us consume beverages with high caloric content – alcoholic or sugary drinks – there is evidence that increased consumption of salty foods leads to an overall increase in the consumption of calories.