Scientists Link SALT To Autoimmune Diseases (Incl. Alopecia, Asthma, Eczema And MS) For First Time

Could junk food increase your risk of MS, asthma and eczema? Scientists link SALT to autoimmune diseases for first time (Daily Mail, March 6, 2013):

  • First time excess salt has been linked to these diseases, say the researchers
  • Salt appears to affect how certain cells in the immune system work
  • Mice fed a high-salt diet also had higher levels of inflammation
  • Humans did not evolve eating high-salt diets, which may be the problem

The modern diet of takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, say scientists.

Multiple sclerosis is one of a host of autoimmune diseases, including alopecia, asthma and eczema, where a person’s immune system attacks itself in error.

Now a team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say salty diets could be partly to blame.

‘This study is the first to indicate that excess salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said.

The team studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections.

Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases.

In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’

They found that mice fed a high-salt diet saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation.

They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.

The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level.

Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells.

Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’

MS is a neurological condition that affects 100,000 people in the UK.

It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body.

It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance.

Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.

He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.

‘Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt.

‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’

The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.

‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said.

‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’

High-salt intake has already been linked to high blood pressure, and the Department of Health recommends that adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day.

However, in the UK, adults consume an average of between 9g and 12g of salt a day, with three-quarters hidden in everyday foods such as bread.

1 thought on “Scientists Link SALT To Autoimmune Diseases (Incl. Alopecia, Asthma, Eczema And MS) For First Time”

  1. But, natural unprocessed sea salt not only raises your blood pressure if it is too low, it also actually lowers your blood pressure if it is too high, so what type of salt have they been using to get these results where salt always raises blood pressure except chemically isolated sodium chloride, which is definitely going to have a number of adverse effects on the human body.

    Lowering salt can have catastrophic results on bone health; ‘A 2009 study of large-bone fractures in the elderly found the incidence of hyponatremia in patients with fractures was MORE THAN DOUBLE that of non-fracture patients. They postulated the reason for the sodium deficiency might have been the use of selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant drugs.’

    ‘A 1995 study by the AMA published in the journal Hypertension found low urinary sodium associated with an increased risk of heart attack.’

    ‘Every gram of excess sodium chloride your body has to neutralize uses up 23 grams of cellular water. Hence, eating too much common processed salt will cause fluid to accumulate in your tissues, which contributes to:

    Unsightly cellulite
    Rheumatism, arthritis and gout
    Kidney and gall bladder stones’

    The mineral balance in human blood is similar to that of the salt found in the oceans, so what would the results of tests using natural salt be? They would be very different indeed, but proper balance is necessary, so we should not reduce salt intake too much due to poorly performed research by mainstream scientists, that fails to state the different effects on the human body of refined and unrefined salts.

    Some disease is actually benefited by using natural salts, that would most definitely be exacerbated by common chemical table salt, which is 98% pure sodium chloride, rather than the 85% sodium chloride of sea salt or rock salt. But moderation is of course necessary with even that too to get the hoped-for health benefits.


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