Salt linked to autoimmune diseases
A group of studies published simultaneously in the journal Nature provides the first evidence that the rise in autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis,may be driven, in part, by more consumption of processed and fast foods.
Scientists don’t believe that such autoimmune conditions--in which the body’s immune system turns on itself--are caused solely by genetics, speculating that environmental factors, such as smoking and lack of vitamin D, could also play a role. And this research suggests excess salt should be added to the list of potential culprits.
The scientists found that what are known as Th 17 immune cells, which fight infections, but also are believed to play a key role in the development of autoimmune diseases, increased dramatically in number when salt was added to a culture dish. They also discovered that when more salt is present, the Th cells become more aggressive and can actually cause inflammation.
Other researchers found that mice fed a high-salt diet were more likely to develop a disease similar to multiple sclerosis. The scientists said it is far too early to draw conclusions about what the findings mean for people who already have autoimmune conditions. Some researchers say they next want to study psoriasis – an autoimmune condition of the skin that may also be linked to the Th17 cells.