Sodium (Na+) is crucial for numerous homeostatic processes in the body and, consequentially, its levels are tightly regulated by multiple organ systems. Sodium is acquired from the diet, commonly in the form of NaCl (table salt), and substances that contain sodium taste salty and are innately palatable at concentrations that are advantageous to physiological homeostasis. The importance of sodium homeostasis is reflected by sodium appetite, an "all-hands-on-deck" response involving the brain, multiple peripheral organ systems, and endocrine factors, to increase sodium intake and replenish sodium levels in times of depletion. Visceral sensory information and endocrine signals are integrated by the brain to regulate sodium intake. Dysregulation of the systems involved can lead to sodium overconsumption, which numerous studies have considered causal for the development of diseases, such as hypertension. The purpose here is to consider the inverse-how disease impacts sodium intake, with a focus on stress-related and cardiometabolic diseases. Our proposition is that such diseases contribute to an increase in sodium intake, potentially eliciting a vicious cycle toward disease exacerbation. First, we describe the mechanism(s) that regulate each of these processes independently. Then, we highlight the points of overlap and integration of these processes. We propose that the analogous neural circuitry involved in regulating sodium intake and blood pressure, at least in part, underlies the reciprocal relationship between neural control of these functions. Finally, we conclude with a discussion on how stress-related and cardiometabolic diseases influence these circuitries to alter the consumption of sodium.
Keywords: blood pressure; cardiometabolic disease; sodium appetite; stress; taste.