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Salt protects against invading microorganisms

Too much salt is still unhealthy. However, high salt levels in the skin can in fact have a positive effect. (Image: Panthermedia)

Researchers discover positive effect on the human body

Increased salt intake comes with an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. A group of researchers consisting of members from Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, FAU, the University of Regensburg and the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin have established that high salt levels in the skin can in fact have a positive effect as they protect the organism from microbial invasion. Their findings have now been published in the renowned journal Cell Metabolism.*

The researchers at the DFG Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) ‘Strategies of cellular immune intervention’ (spokesman of SFB 643: Prof. Dr. med. Gerold Schuler) discovered an unusually high amount of sodium in sore areas of skin in mice. They examined whether there was a link between infections and salt accumulation by the skin, and ascertained that an extremely high-salt diet boosted the animals’ local immune defences. Together with colleagues from Universitätsklinikum Erlangen’s Department of Dermatology they conducted a patient study which confirmed their laboratory findings.

Does this mean that too much salt in food can be healthy after all? The project leaders, Prof. Dr. Jens Titze and Prof. Dr. Jonathan Jantsch, who are currently working at Vanderbilt University, USA, and Universitätsklinikum Regensburg, say that the answer is no. The negative effects of too much salt have been confirmed in numerous studies. However, they say it is possible that some patients with slow-healing wounds have problems storing salt. Further studies will have to be conducted to find out whether an increased salt intake through a high-salt diet, infusions or wound dressing would be helpful. Moreover, the researchers want to find out in further investigations how older people’s salt retention can be mobilised and cardiovascular diseases can be prevented.

*doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.02.003

Further information:

Prof. Dr. med. Gerold Schuler
Phone: +49 9131 8533661
chefsekretariat.de@uk-erlangen.de

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