New research published in Nature may explain the dramatic rise in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis in the past 50 years. Scientists have been trying to explain this rise by looking at environmental factors and changes. And apparently, an increase in salt intake could be the answer, or part of it.
The science is quite complicated, but here we go. A healthy immune system keeps just the right amount of warrior cells in the body to protect against harm. Too little, we get infection; too many, and we get the body attacking itself – an autoimmune condition.
In some of these situation, there is an overproduction of type of warrior cells called TH17. The “spears” used by these warrior cells are proteins called interleukin-17. too many spears and we get an autoimmune inflammation going on in the body.
Through some clever testing methods, scientists were able to manipulate cells in mice to overproduce TH17. One of the simplest compounds that led to overproduction of the warrior cells was…you guessed it – salt. And in a mouse model of multiple-sclerosis, a diet that was high in salt increased the rate of progression of the disease.
The findings are still preliminary, but interesting nonetheless. In any case, we should all lower our sodium consumptions, per recommendations by the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, and the American Heart Association. Too much sodium leads to hypertension, high blood pressure, and ultimately heart disease.