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Diets high in salt can weaken the immune system

Consumers should limit their daily sodium intake

Photo (c) adrian825 - Getty Images
While researchers have already discovered the risks that high sodium intake can have on heart health, a new study has explored how it can also affect the immune system. 

Researchers from the University of Bonn discovered that a diet high in salt can negatively affect consumers’ immune response. To ensure the best health practices, the researchers encourage consumers to limit how much salt they’re having on a daily basis. 

“We now have been able to prove for the first time that excessive salt intake also significantly weakens an important arm of the immune system,” said researcher Dr. Christian Kurts. 

Limiting salt intake

The researchers had two primary components to their study: an experiment on mice and an experiment on human volunteers. 

They put a group of their test mice on high salt diets and then observed the way their immune systems responded to the change. The researchers learned that the mice that consumed more sodium were more likely to be prone to bacterial infections than the ones that hadn’t upped their salt intake. 

“In the spleen and liver of these animals we counted 100 to 1,000 times the number of disease-causing pathogens,” said researcher Dr. Katarzyna Jobin. 

For the human volunteers, the researchers added just six extra grams of sodium to their diets. The participants were free to eat the rest of their meals as they normally would. 

“This is roughly the amount [of sodium] in two fast food meals, i.e. two burgers and two portions of French fries,” said Dr. Kurts. 

The participants stayed on this added sodium diet for one week, at which point the researchers gave them blood tests and analyzed the effect on their immune systems. 

Much like the mice, the cells in the human participants that are responsible for fighting off infection were severely compromised following the introduction of the added sodium. Ultimately, the team found that higher salt intake makes the body more vulnerable to infection. 

“Only through investigations in an entire organism were we able to uncover the complex control circuits that lead from salt intake to this immunodeficiency,” said Dr. Kurts. 

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