High Salt Diet Could Mess Up With Immune Cells

Eating an excessive amount of salt may reduce amount of energy that immune system cells can make, preventing them from working normally, acc. to new study.

Eating an excess of sodium has previously been linked to several different problems in body, including high blood pressure and high risk of stroke, heart failure , osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease , Live Science previously reported.

“Of course first thing you think that of is that the cardiovascular risk,” co-author Markus Kleinewietfeld, an professor at Hasselt University in Belgium, said in statement. “But multiple studies have shown that salt can affect immune cells in different ways.” If salt disrupts immune functioning for an long period, it could potentially drive inflammatory or autoimmune diseases in body, he added.

A few years ago, a gaggle of researchers in Germany discovered that high salt concentrations in blood can directly impact the functioning of a group of immune system cells referred to as monocytes, which are the precursors of Pac Man-like cells called phagocytes that identify and devour pathogens and infected or dead cells in body.

In the new study, Kleinewietfeld and his colleagues conducted a series of experiments to work out how. First, they zoomed on link in lab using mouse and human monocytes. They found that in three hours of exposure to high salt concentrations, the immune cells produced less energy, or adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Mitochondria, the cells’ power plants, produce ATP from energy found in food using a series of biochemical reactions, acc. to the statement. ATP then fuels many various cellular processes, like powering muscles or regulating metabolism, acc. to the statement.

Specifically, the researchers discovered that high salt concentrations inhibit group of enzymes referred to as complex II in chain reaction that produces ATP, which leads the mitochondria to produce less ATP. With less ATP (less energy), the monocytes matured into abnormal-looking phagocytes.

The researchers found that these unusual phagocytes were more-effective at fighting off infections. Still, that’s not necessarily good thing, the researchers say, as an increased immune reaction can cause more inflammation in body, which successively , can increase risk of heart disease.

The researchers then conducted multiple experiments in people; in one, healthy male participants took daily salt supplement tablets of 6,000 milligrams — nearly 3 times the recommended amount — for 2 weeks. In another experiment, a group of participants ate an entire pizza from an Italian restaurant.

They found that after eating the pizza, which contained 10,000 mg of salt, participants’ mitochondria produced less energy. But this effect wasn’t long-lasting; 8 hours after the participants ate the pizza, blood tests showed that their mitochondria were functioning normally again.

“That’s good thing,” Dominik Müller, a professor at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine within the Helmholtz Association and Experimental and Clinical research facility in Berlin, said in statement. “If it had been a protracted disturbance, we’d be worried about the cells not getting enough energy for long time.”

Still, it’s not clear whether mitochondria are affected in long-term if an individual consistently eats a high-salt diet, acc. to the statement. The researchers hope to know whether salt can impact other cells, because mitochondria exist in almost every cell within the body, acc. to the statement.

The findings were published on April 28 in the journal Circulation.

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