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A salty effect on your immune system

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA new trial in the United States is looking at the effect of salt on the immune system. Previous research shows that a high intake of salt has an adverse effect on medical conditions like high blood pressure and diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.

A study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that animals fed a high-salt diet for three weeks had a dramatic increase in a type of cell in the immune system called type 17 helper T cell (Th17) when compared to those fed a normal diet. The Th17 cell triggers inflammation and is associated with diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's and ulcerative colitis (which cause inflammation in the gut).

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital are conducting a study with 20 healthy people. Half of the subjects will follow a high-salt diet for five months, and the other half will follow a normal diet. Researchers will then compare Th17 levels between the two groups. The results of the study could help doctors determine if they should advise their patients to follow low-salt diets. A second study is happening at Yale University.

Health Canada states that Canadians eat about 3400 mg of sodium each day. This is more than double the amount we need. Health Canada has the following sodium intake recommendation:

Sodium Intake Recommendation