Dementia could be caused by eating a high-salt diet, US scientists have claimed.
Eating more salt caused about 25 per cent less blood to flow to part of the brain that’s linked to learning and memory in mice, the scientists revealed.
Many people in the UK eat too much salt, the NHS said.
An adult shouldn’t eat more than 6g of salt a day, it added.
“We discovered that mice fed a high-salt diet developed dementia even when blood pressure did not rise,” said senior author Dr Costantino Iadecola.
“This was surprising since, in humans, the deleterious effects of salt on cognition were attributed to [high blood pressure].”
The mice were given diets containing eight per cent salt – similar to the upper end of human salt consumption.
After eight weeks, the mice suffered “marked reductions” in memory. They performed worse on object recognition tests, maze tests and nest building the scientists said.
Foods that are high in salt include anchovies, bacon, cheese, gravy granules, ham, olives and pickles.
We tend to get 75 per cent of our recommended daily amount of salt in everyday foods, like bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals, the NHS said.
Eating too much salt could also lead to high blood pressure, which currently affects more than a third of UK adults.
Lowering your blood pressure will also lower your risk of having a stroke, or developing heart disease.
Dementia affects about 850,000 people in the UK.
The number of dementia cases could rise to more than one million by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Signs of dementia include memory loss, difficulty carrying out everyday tasks, and difficulty following conversations.
There’s currently no cure for the condition, but lifestyle changes could help the slow the condition’s development.