Sure you shouldn’t have wolfed down those three slices of salty pepperoni pizza last night. Heck, you don’t have diabetes, your blood pressure is fine, your ticker runs great and your gut is a reasonable size. Why worry? Well, in turns out that not only can excessive salt intake lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, it might also cause some other nasty conditions.
Autoimmune diseases occur when our immune system, attempting to fight off a perceived invader (think bacteria), ends up with a friendly fire situation: Our immune systems attacks us, misreading our cells for invaders. What results? Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.
Researchers found that in mice with one form of autoimmune disease-multiple sclerosis- an increased salt diet worsened the multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, increased salt has been found to increase levels of a certain type of “killer” T cell, which is also seen in many autoimmune diseases. One study noted that for those participants who “dined” on fast food once a week, numbers of these T cells were higher than those who just said no to fast food.
It is then simply not bad genes or bad environment which are the only causes of these autoimmune diseases. Salt may play a large role as well. Smoking, which causes just about everything bad, has also been linked to an increased risk for autoimmune diseases. Most likely, other causes of these diseases will be discovered as well.
Expect to hear about more studies concerning the role that salt plays in increasing the risks for autoimmune conditions. We are truly what we eat and we might just benefit from a little less salt.