A high sodium diet may be a risk factor in developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study in mice by researchers from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Findings from the study are published in The FASEB Journal.

Previous animal and human studies have suggested that high sodium increased the generation of T helper 17 cells and exacerbated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the principal model of MS. With the incidence of MS in female patients having tripled in the last 100 years, a sex-specific environmental influence has also been implicated.

Dimitry N. Krementsov, PhD, and colleagues gave a high sodium or a control diet to three genetically different groups of mice. The mice were then induced with a disease that mimics human MS. In the first group, male and female mice that were fed a high salt diet exhibited worse clinical signs of the disease. In the second group, only females exhibited a negative response to salt. In the third group, the mice did not respond to salt. Researchers concluded genetics were the deciding factor. For mice that did have a respond to salt, no direct changes in their immune function were seen but researchers observed signs of a weakened blood-brain barrier.

The researchers concluded that “the effects of dietary sodium on autoimmune neuroinflammation are sex specific, genetically controlled, and CNS mediated.”

For more information visit FASEB.org.