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Does a high salt diet increase our risk of Autoimmune Diseases?

Does a high salt diet increase our risk of Autoimmune Diseases?

Three recent studies have found that high salt levels have been found to trigger autoimmune diseases in mice, with one study also confirming this occurred with human cells in vitro:

Some quotes:

"Some forms of autoimmunity have been linked to overproduction of TH17 cells, a type of helper T cell that produces an inflammatory protein called interleukin-17."

'All this evidence, Kuchroo says, “is building a very interesting hypothesis [that] salt may be one of the environmental triggers of autoimmunity”.'

"But Kuchroo and other researchers say that evidence so far cannot predict the effect of salt on human autoimmunity. “As a physician, I’m very cautious,” Hafler says. “Should patients go on a low-salt diet? Yes,” he says, adding that “people should probably already be on a low-salt diet” for general health concerns."

Interestingly, a report in my local paper includes some additional quotes from one of the researchers, where Vitamin D levels are specifically mentioned:

"It’s not just salt, of course," said author Vijay Kuchroo, co-director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

"We have this genetic architecture – genes that have been linked to various forms of autoimmune diseases and predispose a person to developing autoimmune diseases.

"But we also suspect that environmental factors – infection, smoking and lack of sunlight and Vitamin D may play a role," Kuchroo said in a joint statement.

Given the regulatory role of B-lymphocytes on T-lymphocytes, it might be wise for us to all look at opportunities to reduce our salt intake.

Since most of the salt in our diet comes already included in purchased foods, rather than from what we add for taste, it is well worthwhile either choosing low salt varieties or checking the amount of salt when selecting from competing brands and choosing one with lower salt content.

Chris (CLLCanada), I'd be interested in your thoughts.


3 Replies

Interesting. I gave up adding salt to my food a couple of years back and find for me it is not a problem (with the exception of 'fish and chips' - which I do miss a little on).

This was not really a health thing, more driven by another idea I had - eat the food as the cook intended it - not get someone to cook something good then flood it with unplanned tastes.

I've also changed to other lower-salt items (eg packet crisps on the rare occasion that I have them) really as I'd like to avoid heart related problems - I have high blood pressure but this was identified only last year along with CLL.

My layman view is that we should have things in moderation, however it you give up lots of things you could end up in a bad way - totally imbalanced diet.

This probably crosses over to today's revelation about 'processed foods'. See if you've not read about this. In that case I think they need to be more specific (isn't bread a processed food?).



Hi Rob,

Yes I saw the news item you mentioned above. Interesting you mention bread. Here in Australia, our federal government has managed to gain industry agreement to reduce salt levels in both bread and cereal manufacture:

On a related note, two pretty well matched companies dominate about 85% of our grocery market, which generally isn't good from a competition perspective, but there have been some benefits, with innovations by one company usually quickly outdone by the other as they both try to gain market share from the other. Bread used to pretty well universally contain preservatives - typically 282 or other salts of propionic acid, which is know to adversely affect some children. Now bread from both companies rarely contains it and I can also buy bread that is free of emulsifiers.

I might add salt to my food perhaps several times a year for the same reasons you give. Even when I buy fish and chips for my family, we now ask for it without added salt and enjoy it better that way.



I don't take salt or eat processed meat and haven't for years.


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