Could Too Much Salt Harm MS Patients?
Researchers find a link but say it's too soon to recommend reducing sodium intake
To check the progression of the disease in patients' brains, the researchers analyzed X-rays and scans. They found that patients who had the highest salt intake were about 3.4 times more likely to have their disease worsen, compared with those with the lowest salt intake.
Similar results were found in a second group of 52 MS patients, the researchers added.
"It is too soon to say that MS patients should cut their salt intake," Farez said. "Our findings could serve as a basis for clinical trials with salt restriction in MS patients," he said.
The report was published Aug. 28 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Salt's influence on MS is a subject of increasing interest, said Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"At this stage you really can't assign cause and effect, but it's beginning to look like there is a significant role of salt in MS disease activity and progression," he said.
The mechanism for this association isn't known, LaRocca said. Salt may make the immune system more prone to the disease, he suggested.
He agreed that there isn't enough evidence to recommend that MS patients reduce salt in their diet.
"However, in a more general sense, we should all be watching our salt intake. We should all be careful about consuming excessive amounts of salt," he said.
For the study, salt intake was estimated from sodium excreted in urine samples the participants provided three times over nine months. In addition, the researchers tracked the course of the patients' MS from 2010 to 2012.
After accounting for factors such as smoking, age, gender, length of time after diagnosis, weight, treatment and vitamin D, the link between more salt and worsening MS remained, the researchers said.