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High-salt diet may help fight infection

High-salt diet helps body fight infection

Although too much sodium chloride can cause a number of health problems, a new study has found that a high-salt diet may help the body protect itself against bacteria.


The discovery was made by accident after Jens Titze, the study's senior author, observed that mice that had gotten bitten by other mice in their cage had higher sodium levels in their skin than those who had no wounds.

Titze and his team exposed mouse and human cells to high levels of sodium chloride. They fed one group of mice a high-salt diet and another group a low-salt diet for two weeks. They then infected both groups' footpads with Leishmania major, a protozoan parasite. The mice that were on the high-salt diet had stronger immune responses to the wounds and got rid of their infections faster than the mice on the low-salt diet.

In humans, the team found evidence that salt accumulation may be localized to sites of infection. They also found unusually high levels of salt accumulation in bacterial skin infections, regardless of whether or not the person consumed a high-salt diet.

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According to the team, the levels of sodium go up around an infection site, but without salt, bacteria tend to flourish.

Despite the findings, Dr. Jonathan Jantsch, an assistant professor at the University of Regensburg in Germany, cautioned that high-salt diets are not healthy.

“There is overwhelming data that tells you a high salt diet is detrimental to the heart,” he says. “We used one animal approach to look at the beneficial role of salt. So I would be hesitant to draw any conclusions for humans at this stage.”

Too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure, asthma and heart disease. A previous study has also found that too much salt can be bad for people with multiple sclerosis.