An early laboratory study has demonstrated that high-salt diet can drive the body immune systems to act like autoimmune, leading to diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
Researchers released the findings based on studies looking at the impact of salt on mice’s immune cells and how it boosts the development of a condition similar to MS in the laboratory animals.
The study found that mice fed a high-salt diet produced more immune cells called T-helper 17 (TH17) with the immune system malfunctions through creating antibodies that attacked the body’s own cells.
"When we put extra salt in the culture dish it was one of those 'Aha' moments, the cells were becoming T-helper 17 cells," said one of the study researchers Dr Vijay Kuchroo from Brigham and Women's Hospital.
The observed process in mice is seen in autoimmune diseases such as MS in which the immune system attacks the cells that make up nerve fibers.
"In mouse models of MS, those fed high-salt diets had significantly worse disease. We were all really quite surprised to see how changes in dietary salt could have such a profound effect," explained professor of immunobiology at Yale University, David Hafler.
As the study was carried out in animals, the researchers emphasized that they were not certain if similar results would be found in people.
"It's still too early, however, to draw firm conclusions on what these findings mean for people with MS, but we look forward to seeing the results of further research,” said the head of biomedical research at the MS Society Dr Susan Kohlhaas.
Teams of researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard simultaneously contributed to the study published in the journal of Nature