Salt Linked to MS, Diabetes

salt linked to autoimmune disease

Salt is the culprit in the rising numbers of cases of autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes. That’s the claim made by not one but three studies published today in Nature. Katherine Harmon summarized the three reports.

The human body has a powerful immune response to attack and defend itself from disease. However, when the immune response reacts too strongly, it attacks its own tissues, and serious autoimmune illnesses are the result. The three studies, performed both on mouse and human cells, seem to demonstrate that the autoimmune diseases are triggered by too much salt.

As reported by Bill Hathaway for Health Canal, the original research was sparked by the observation that eating in fast food restaurants seemed to excite the immune system. Yale researcher Dr. David Hafler and his colleagues wanted to see if the high salt content in the food could be to blame.

An alternative theory, also released today by The Methodist Hospital, is that it could be the fat rather than the salt that is triggering the autoimmune response.

Although previous studies didn’t blame salt, Hafler noted that they were probably using the wrong concentration in their tests. In the past, lab researchers were performing experiments based on the normal amount of salt found in blood rather than in actual tissue.

“We may have been using the wrong concentrations of salt in our experiments for the past half-century,” he suggested.

Even if you feel that the link between salt and autoimmune disease is still not fully proven, eating too much salt has long been linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The National Institutes of Health website, Medline Plus, said that you should eat no more than 2.4 grams a day — a single teaspoon of table salt.

And Dr. Hafler said that he already advises his patients to stick to a low salt diet.

[Salinas Grande salt field photo courtesy Elaine Radford]