Could Salt Intake be an MS Risk Factor?

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Most people know that eating too much salt is bad for your health, but a new study suggests that it could also increase the risk for multiple sclerosis (MS). The work appeared in the August 2015 issue of The FASEB Journalthe journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Researchers from the University of Vermont in Burlington found that mice who ingested too much sodium had more severe forms of experimentally-induced MS. While the effect seemed to depend on both genetics and gender, the findings could add salt to the other factors that have been proposed as contributors to the disease, such as environmental toxins and genes.

“We hope to provide a comprehensive understanding of how and why environmental factors interact with individuals’ unique genetic make up to influence autoimmune diseases such as MS,” remarked Dimitry N. Krementsov, Ph.D., one of the researchers, who is working in the Department of Medicine, Immunobiology Program at the University of Vermont.

MS is caused when immune cells go awry and attack the body’s own myelin, a fatty insulation that covers the long branches that extend from nerve cells, called axons. When myelin disappears, the connections between nerve cells no longer work as well, and problems with sensation, movement, pain and vision can result, most often unpredictably.

To examine the possible effect of salt on the immune system and MS, Krementsov and his collaborators gave a high salt diet or a non-salty diet to three groups of mice with different genetic backgrounds. The scientists then gave the mice an experimental form of MS. In one group, mice who ate a high salt diet had a worsening of the experimental MS. Another group also experienced this salt effect, but only in the female mice. In the third group, a salty or non-salty diet had no effect.

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It appears that while genetic predisposition was the critical factor in whether salt intake led to a higher risk factor of MS based on this study, clearly more work in humans would need to be done to confirm this. Interestingly, the salt effect did not depend on causing problems with the immune cells as the researchers had predicted, but instead weakened the blood-brain barrier. The blood brain barrier protects the brain and spinal cord from dangerous toxins and other harmful molecules.

“As is the case with other things, you need to get enough salt so your body functions properly, but not too much or things start to go haywire,” noted Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “This report helps shed light on what can go wrong in individuals with genes that make one susceptible to autoimmune disease. It also helps us understand how much salt is just right for any given individual.”

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  1. Sarah Rainbolt says:

    I find it interesting that in all my Google news alerts regarding this issue that nothing is mentioned about natural salts like sea salt vs. iodized salt. We all know iodized salt is crap for us and that natural salts are good for us so I really would love all these informational writings to address this.

  2. Adriann Giovanni says:

    More useless information .. Dieting is important and while patients with MS are TOLD this and given a diet plan , like many others we develop other issues that also cause Dietary Issues .. Such as Bladder/Bowel issues , GERD and other ..

    My issue with most of this stuff that is put out for OUR education is something most MS Patients could look up on Google or whatever search engine they use .. Just as I did 14 years ago .. What IS appalling is the decline in numbers of Real MS Neurologists ..

    They do not Educate themselves on such things as the Gray Matter, The Inflammation of the Cerebral Fluid that is the lining between the Skull and Brain and more .. My latest MS Neurologist doesn’t believe in “Pain” .. What are we in the Twilight Zone ?? I had to convince him that perhaps we do an MRI in 08/2014 to compare to the last one from 08/2013 , only he didn’t bother getting those ..

    No Doctor should be able to say they Treat MS without a Certification .. And the other issue is NMSS and trying to get to see a MS Neurologist .. There are no facilities in my region , unless I wish to travel 300 miles .. And I am in that gray area with coverage , they won’t cover a co-pay and yet they help people get medical equipment and it gives me pause as I just need a good MS Doctor to read my MRI’s and trust ME when I say there is something happening ..

    Where are the Advocates for this Cause ?? Well, I am one .. And I know many more feel like I do .. Left confused and frustrated .. I will never give in nor give up .. I will find a way to make the Uber Rich NMSS force these doctors to get on board and Treat !

    • Jules says:

      Excellent post. A neurologist is not an MS Specialist. I believe a neuro that treats MS should have a sub specialty and separate certification. Big Pharma should get on board with who they allow to prescribe these high risk black box drugs.

  3. Jules says:

    Excellent post. A neurologist is not an MS Specialist. I believe a neuro that treats MS should have a sub specialty and separate certification. Big Pharma should get on board with who they allow to prescribe these high risk black box drugs.

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