Relationship between Sodium Intake and Water Intake: The False and the True

Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 1:51-61. doi: 10.1159/000463831. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


Generally, eating salty food items increases thirst. Thirst is also stimulated by the experimental infusion of hypertonic saline. But, in steady state, does the kidney need a higher amount of water to excrete sodium on a high than on a low sodium intake? This issue is still controversial. The purpose of this review is to provide examples of how the kidney handles water in relation to salt intake/output. It is based on re-analysis of previously published studies in which salt intake was adjusted to several different levels in the same subjects, and in databases of epidemiologic studies in populations on an ad libitum diet. Summary and Key Messages: These re-analyses allow us to draw the following conclusions: (1) In a steady state situation, the urine volume (and thus the fluid intake) remains unchanged over a large range of sodium intakes. The adaptation to a higher sodium excretion rests only on changes in urinary sodium concentration. However, above a certain limit, this concentration cannot increase further and the urine volume may then increase. (2) In population studies, it is not legitimate to assume that sodium is responsible for changes in urine volume, since people who eat more sodium also eat more of other nutrients leading to an increase in the excretion of potassium, urea and other solutes, besides sodium. (3) After an abrupt increase in sodium intake, fluid intake is increased in the first few days, but urine volume does not change. The extra fluid drunk is responsible for an increase in body weight.

Keywords: Body weight; Potassium; Urea; Urine volume; Vasopressin; Water.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Sodium / urine
  • Sodium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Urine / physiology*


  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Sodium