Excessive Salt Intake Affects the Intestine and its Microbiota

Excessive salt intake has linked to multiple health problems. Not surprisingly, it is one of the leading causes of stroke, and its abusive use is also related to the increase in heart attacks, overweight, hypertension, kidney problems and, even, with the development of autoimmune diseases such as, multiple sclerosis. Now a study carried out by two German scientific institutions and published by the journal Nature has wanted to go beyond the direct consequences to check how salt intake affects the intestinal microbiota, whose correct functioning is essential for the immune system.

Thus, to carry out the research, the scientists used a group of 20 laboratory mice in the first place. 12 of them were given a diet with high salt content, while the other eight rodents continued with their normal diet. Three weeks later they analyzed the composition of their feces and found that the intestinal microbiota of the first group of mice was altered. Specifically, they had seen significantly reduced the presence of lactobacilli, while on the contrary, due to the increase in the arterial attendance, there had been a marked increase in the known TH17 immune cells, linked to hypertension and multiple sclerosis.

For a complete study, the authors created a small pilot group with 12 men who supplemented the diet with an additional 6 grams of salt daily (it should remember that the WHO recommends not consuming more than 5 grams a day). Two weeks later the consequences on the intestinal microbiota of the participants were the same as those observed in the mice.

The results obtained in the tests potentially convert the intestinal microbiota into a therapeutic target of the first order to solve the health problems caused by the excessive consumption of salt. Not in vain, in a second phase of the research, scientists supplemented the diet of rodents who were ingesting greater amounts of salt with a probiotic of Lactobacillus murinus, which is the bacteria that had been most affected by salt. To his surprise, the blood pressure decreased and with it the TH17 cells. Also, in mice that had an experimental autoimmune disease induced by the researchers themselves (a kind of model disease of multiple sclerosis), the probiotic supplement did not aggravate it despite increased salt intake.

In the human intestinal microbiota, there are no Lactobacillus murinus, but there are other lactobacilli that could be capable of playing a similar role. Therefore, and despite still being experimental results, the authors believe that probiotics could have potential as a therapy for the treatment of diseases whose development linked to the excessive salt intake. In this regard, they say that they are already preparing new trials to confirm the results in people, as well as to study the influence that excessive consumption of salt and its effect on the gut microbiota have the development of other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.

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