By Aly Walansky
Updated March 10, 2016
Credit: © Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images

An old, but accurate Lay’s ad said you can’t eat just one potato chip. The reason why, says a study conducted by Deakin University in Australia and published in the Journal of Nutrition, is that salt make people eat 11% more food. This is regardless of how much fat is in what we are eating. We just love salt. And the more we eat it, the more we crave it.

For the study, researchers followed 48 people over several weeks. Once a week, the people would eat a pasta dish, with researchers manipulating the fat and salt levels. In the end, adding salt made people enjoy the food more, and also eat more of it. However, the same didn’t hold true for the high fat meals vs. the low-fat ones. People enjoy salt so much that they will continue to eat it even when they are no longer hungry. Hence, our always empty bags of potato chips.

So, why would salt make people eat more food? “Salt is used to provide a taste to food where otherwise the food would be considered bland, as an example, fat like steak or chicken or pork fat has no taste and is otherwise unappetizing…until you add salt…at which point there is a flavor that stimulates appetite and the desire to consume more of the food than without salt. In that respect because of flavor, it can be considered an appetite stimulant,” says Dr. Philip Goglia, a top nutritionist and author of Turn up the Heat - Unlock the Fat Burning Power of Your Metabolism.

“The flavoring of salt enhances the flavor of many meats starches and vegetables… providing an increased enjoyment around food flavor—it is a pleasure sensation that stimulates our brain … providing us with a sensation of happiness.”

Salt is an important nutrient in daily diets, so it has its place, but everything in moderation. “Salt is not only a provider of sodium it is also a carrier of potassium and other essential minerals – it helps to balance inter-cellular water – muscular tonus like range of motion and cramping issues. Too much salt though can adversely affect coronary function and blood pressure leading to a variety of health complications. So …. Assuming there is no blood pressure risk or coronary / vascular risk lightly salting foods does provide health benefits … but like with everything too much of a good thing can kill you. Or at least reduce your body’s ability to function optimally,” says Dr. Goglia.