Sex Differences in Salt Appetite: Perspectives from Animal Models and Human Studies

Jessica Santollo, Derek Daniels, Micah Leshem, Jay Schulkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Salt ingestion by animals and humans has been noted from prehistory. The search for salt is largely driven by a physiological need for sodium. There is a large body of literature on sodium intake in laboratory rats, but the vast majority of this work has used male rats. The limited work conducted in both male and female rats, however, reveals sex differences in sodium intake. Importantly, while humans ingest salt every day, with every meal and with many foods, we do not know how many of these findings from rodent studies can be generalized to men and women. This review provides a synthesis of the literature that examines sex differences in sodium intake and highlights open questions. Sodium serves many important physiological functions and is inextricably linked to the maintenance of body fluid homeostasis. Indeed, from a motivated behavior perspective, the drive to consume sodium has largely been studied in conjunction with the study of thirst. This review will describe the neuroendocrine controls of fluid balance, mechanisms underlying sex differences, sex differences in sodium intake, changes in sodium intake during pregnancy, and the possible neuronal mechanisms underlying these differences in behavior. Having reviewed the mechanisms that can only be studied in animal experiments, we address sex differences in human dietary sodium intake in reproduction, and with age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number208
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • fluid homeostasis
  • motivated behavior
  • sex differences
  • sodium appetite
  • thirst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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