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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
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Multiple Sclerosis Channel
Reported March 8, 2013

Salt and Autoimmunity: A Surprising Link


(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Salt can add flavor to dishes, but unfortunately it can also take a toll on our health. If you’re looking for even more reason to cut back on your salt intake, a new study may have linked dietary salt to a heightened risk of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. 
After adding salt to the diets of mice, researchers noted that the mice’s bodies began to produce a type of T cells that is associated with autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, the mice that had salt in their diets developed a more serious type of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal model of multiple sclerosis. 
The inspiration for the study came from a prior observation that the production of inflammatory cells increased after eating fast food. These inflammatory cells are what attack healthy tissues in autoimmune diseases, so researchers hypothesized that the high amount of salt in the foods we eat could play a role in why many autoimmune diseases have become more prevalent. 
“Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well,” study researcher David Hafler, the Gilbert H. Glaser Professor of Neurology, Professor of Immunobiology, and Chair of the Department of Neurology at Yale University, was quoted as saying.  
While it may be surprising to some that the relationship between dietary salt and autoimmune disease has only recently come to light, researchers explain that test tube biology uses salt levels in the blood rather than in the tissues, which is where autoimmunity can be seen. 
For people concerned about their own risk when it comes to autoimmune disease and salt consumption, being careful about what foods you eat can go a long way. 
“I already recommend that my patients use a low-salt, low-fat diet," Hafler was quoted as saying. 
Source: Nature, March 2013 
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