Study results published in the March 6, 2013 issue of Nature suggest that a high intake of salt can overstimulate the immune system. Specifically, salt can induce immune cells that trigger autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis. Researchers have long thought that autoimmune diseases are caused by more than just genetic factors. Environmental factors, including lifestyle habits and dietary factors, were likely suspects.
Experiments have shown that increased salt can lead to the induction of pathogenic (disease-causing) Th17 cells. Th17 cells, or interleukin-17 producing helper T cells, are highly proinflammatory, critical for clearing pathogens, but apparently for inducing autoimmune diseases under certain conditions, too.
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