A new study claims that intake of excessive salt can delay puberty, leading to a number of problems. In addition to behavioral issues and stress, delay in puberty may also result in infertility and its associated problems.

Researchers from the University of Wyoming in the U.S. say the problems indicated in their findings could affect the reproductive health of the coming generations.

The research team, led by Dori Pitynski, fed a test group of rats three to four times the daily recommended intake of salt for humans. They found that these rats exhibited a significant delay in the onset of puberty compared with those that were fed a normal diet.

The researchers also found that rats that were given completely saltless food also showed a delay in puberty. They concluded that salt consumption is necessary for the onset of puberty, but excessive intake can affect reproductive health.

"Our work shows that high levels of fat and salt have opposite effects on reproductive health," said Pitynski. "A high-fat diet is thought to accelerate the onset of puberty, but our work demonstrates that rats fed a high-salt diet, even with a high-fat diet, will still show a delay in puberty onset. Our research highlights for the first time that the salt content of a diet has a more significant effect on reproductive health than the fat content." 

Recent guidelines issued by the World Health Organization revealed that people consume far more sodium in the form of salt than the actual requirement of 5 grams a day for adults. Sodium is found in much higher amounts in processed foods, such as bacon, bread and processed meat.

The research findings were presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology, which is taking place this week in Dublin.

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