It has long been viewed that the maintenance of osmotic balance in response to high salt intake is a passive process that is mediated largely by increased water consumption to balance the salt load. Two studies in this issue of the JCI challenge this notion and demonstrate that osmotic balance in response to high salt intake involves a complex regulatory process that is influenced by hormone fluctuation, metabolism, food consumption, water intake, and renal salt and water excretion. Rakova et al. report the unexpected observation that long-term high salt intake did not increase water consumption in humans but instead increased water retention. Moreover, salt and water balance was influenced by glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid fluctuations. Kitada et al. extend upon these findings in mouse models and determined that increased urea and a corresponding increase in urea transporters in the renal medulla as the result of increased protein intake promote the water retention that is needed to achieve osmotic homeostasis. Together, the results of these two studies lay the groundwork for future studies to determine how, in the face of chronic changes in salt intake, humans maintain volume and osmotic homeostasis.
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