Stressed? Dig Into Some Pretzels Increased sodium means decreased stress hormones: Study By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Apr 8, 2011 1:43 PM CDT 9 comments Comments "These pretzels are making me thirsty," and maybe reducing stress, too. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – Bartenders may put out pretzels and chips to keep customers thirsty, but something deeper might be at play. All that salt helps ease social anxiety and keeps people loose, suggests a new study. Researchers found that rats exposed to stressful situations were much calmer when loaded up with sodium, which seemed to increase levels of the so-called "love hormone" oxytocin and decrease stress hormones, reports Time. "We're calling this the Watering Hole Effect," says the lead author from the University of Cincinnati. "When you're thirsty, you have to overcome some amount of fear and anxiety to approach a communal water source. And you want to facilitate those interactions—that way everyone can get to the water source." The study also might improve our understanding of what role these hormones and neurocircuits play in autism, notes Drug Discovery & Development.