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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Salt linked to immune rebellion in study

The amount of salt in our diet could be involved in driving our own immune systems to rebel against us, leading to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, early laboratory findings suggest.

Salt on bread
Several teams of scientists have simultaneously published data in the journal Nature suggesting a link.
Salt may activate a part of the immune system that can target the body.
Experts said the findings were very interesting and plausible, but were not a cure for people with MS.*
The body's defence against infection can go horrible awry, turning on the body and leading to autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Genetics is thought to increase the risk of such diseases, but the world around us also has a major impact. One of the leading theories behind multiple sclerosis is a viral infection, but smoking and a lack of vitamin D may make the condition more likely.
Now researchers believe they have the first evidence that the amount of salt in our diet may also be contributing.
There is caution about over-interpreting what is very early research. Studies are now taking place in people with high blood pressure, also caused by high salt intake, to see if there is a link between salt and autoimmune diseases in people.

Dr Aviv Regev, from the Broad Institute, said: "All we can do is bring the current state of knowledge to the public, we have absolutely no recommendations, there's always a gap between scientific discovery and translation to the clinic."
Prof Hafler added that a low salt-diet was, however, unlikely to cause harm.
Commenting on the findings, Prof Alastair Compston, from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC the findings were plausible, unexpected and very interesting.
"Like all good science it is introducing a brand new idea that nobody had thought of."
He said that salt may have a similar effect to other factors such as smoking and sunlight, which alter the odds of getting the disease.
However he cautioned: "There is no prospect of a low salt diet curing MS*. If you already have the disease and go on a low salt diet the horse has already bolted."

* Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting movement, ensation, and bodily functions. It is caused by destruction of the myelin insulation covering nerve fibers (neurons) in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
From BBC Health and  The Free Dictionary by Farlex

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