We consume way too much salt. This excess is concerning, as several studies have clearly shown that a high dietary sodium intake strongly increases the risk of hypertension, the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that higher than normal blood pressure (≥115 mm systolic Hg) alone is responsible for half of all myocardial infarctions and strokes. This translates to approximately million premature deaths worldwide each year. A reduction in blood pressure caused by a decrease in sodium intake could therefore significantly reduce the mortality caused by these cardiovascular events.
Too much salt interferes the immune system and promotes autoimmune diseases
Several studies have reported that excess sodium can also build up in tissues and break down the delicate balance that allows our immune system to distinguish self (our own cells) from non-self (bacteria, viruses, cancer cells). When this balance is disrupted, immunity is disrupted and may begin to attack the body for no reason, leading to the onset of autoimmune diseases.
Studies show that a high sodium consumption disrupts the function of regulatory T lymphocytes (which prevents immunity from racing) and simultaneously activates the activity of pro-inflammatory Th lymphocytes18. This imbalance is accompanied by hypersecretion in the blood of several pro-inflammatory cytokine molecules (GM-CSF, TNF, IL-2) and a notable acceleration of the development of autoimmune diseases in models genetically predisposed to developing these diseases. This impact of high sodium intake has been observed for several autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. This suggests that excessive sodium consumption could be a lifestyle factor that promotes the onset or aggravates the symptoms of several autoimmune diseases.
In this sense, it should be noted that the incidence of autoimmune diseases has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, coinciding with the use large-scale sodium by the food industry, especially that of junk food.
Arthritis when salt eats away the joints
In humans, the study of the effects of sodium on autoimmune diseases is still in its infancy and very few studies have looked into that question. The results obtained in people with arthritis tend to show that excess sodium could actually increase the risk of developing this disease. For example, a study on 555 Spaniards showed that people who reported the highest sodium intake had 40% more risk of being with rheumatoid arthritis than those who consumed the least. Other studies suggest that this increased risk by sodium is particularly important (220%) in heavy smokers.
It’s not just salt: think of spices and herbs
More 80 % of the salt consumed comes from industrially produced food products and is therefore consumed completely involuntarily. The only really effective way to reduce salt intake is therefore to reduce the consumption of prepared products and to cook for yourself as often as possible.
You must also remember that salt does not is really not the only way to season a dish: we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy hundreds of spices and herbs from all over the world and the use of these uniquely flavored ingredients is a great way to reduce our salt consumption and explore new culinary horizons.
Kleinewietfeld M et al. Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH cells. Nature ; 496: 496-18.
Toussirot E et al. Could sodium chloride be an environmental trigger for immune-mediated diseases? An overview of the experimental and clinical evidence. Frontiers in physiology 9: 440.
Salgado E et al. High sodium intake is associated with self-reported rheumatoid arthritis: a cross sectional and case control analysis within the SUN cohort. Medicine 94: e0924.
Sundström B et al. Interaction between dietary sodium and smoking increases the risk for rheumatoid arthritis: results from a nested case-control study. Rheumatology