Hafler pointed out that while salt may be implicated in autoimmune disease, it may also be found to play an important role in boosting the immune system. Part of the reason chicken soup seems to be effective with colds and flu may be that the salt stimulates an infection-fighting response, he said.
Should consumers who are concerned about autoimmune disease switch to a low-salt diet, even before tests in humans have been done?
"If I had an autoimmune disease, I would put myself on a low-salt diet now," Hafler said. "It's not a bad thing to do. But we have to do more studies to prove it."
O'Shea agreed. "But the extent to which salt is important, I think we don't know. These papers show it experimentally, but we still can't be sure," he said.
To learn more about low-salt diets, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: David Hafler, M.D., professor, neurology and immunobiology, and chair, department of neurology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; John O'Shea, M.D., director, intramural research program, U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Bethesda, Md.; March 6, 2013, Nature
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