Cutting salt in diet may lower risk of developing an autoimmune disease

The risk of high blood pressure and the heart problems it can lead to may be reason enough to ease up on the salt shaker, but in case there’s any reluctance, salt lovers may increase their likelihood of autoimmune disease if they can’t shake the sodium habit.

More than 80 different autoimmune diseases – including Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis – affect 23.5 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.

Researchers have long believed that the overproduction of the TH17 immune cells, which contribute to white blood cell inflammation, may be linked to autoimmune diseases that cause the immune system to attack healthy cells.

In the journal Nature, two studies cited the possibility that salt intake is linked to TH17 cell formation.

“If you incrementally increase salt, you get generation after generation of these TH17 cells,” study co-author Vijay Kuchroo, D.V.M., told CBS News of the research he’s done as an immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

When mice were placed on a high-salt diet in another study at Yale University School of Medicine, higher production of TH17 cells was also observed. The mice in the experiments developed a form of multiple sclerosis.

Yale’s chairman of the neurology department, David Hafler, M.D., said the research showed a “dramatic effect” when the mice went from a low-salt to a high-salt diet.

High consumption of salt is one of the dietary habits that is often blamed for high blood pressure and obesity that can lead to cardiovascular disease. In addition to cutting down salt intake, people can strengthen their immune systems and cardiovascular function with dietary supplements such as Ultimate Reds from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, which offers the antioxidant value of 20 fruits and vegetables.