Stop counting calories for a bit. Based on a new research on obesity and diet, it looks like calories are not at fault for packing extra pounds but salt intake.
A team of UK researchers with Graham McGregor, a professor in Queen Mary University of London, as the lead author, found out that too much salt can make a person fat, even if they take into consideration the total calories they eat. To be more specific, for every additional gram of salt a person takes, the risk of obesity increases by as much as 25%.
For the study, they used the information available in a survey for diet and nutrition, which was conducted in 2008 and 2009, as well as in 2011 and 2012. Overall, the team worked with more than 1,000 people, including almost 800 adults.
They obtained samples of their urine for the last 24 hours and monitored their calorie intake for 4 days using a personal diary.
When they analyzed the results, they learned that most of the overweight or obese participants had a high consumption of salt and that the obesity risk went up the more they consumed salty food.
The study didn't establish the cause, and the researchers themselves haven't figured out yet how salt leads to obesity. However, they believe that salt has the ability to alter the way the body metabolizes fat, storing more of it.
Meanwhile, the study has already met some criticisms by other experts, suggesting that since the food intake is self-reported, the information provided by the participants may be misleading or incorrect. Thus, they advised readers to be more cautious in accepting the results of the study.
Salt is one of the most studied food components, and many researches have shown how it can increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension. The new study, though, is the first to establish the direct relationship between obesity and salt intake.