Excessive salt can have distressing effects on your brain power, and new study discloses the mechanism behind this.
According to a recent study which is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, too much salt in our diet can cause cognitive insufficiencies. Fortunately, recent research also shows how we can reverse these negative effects.
Many studies are finding that salt has various benefits in your body, such as making you less thirsty and increasing body water conservation. It plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the human body. As it is the main source of chloride and sodium ions in the human diet. But most people today are eating much more than the recommended amount which can cause many problems.
It is also a renowned fact that excessive salt in the diet causes many diseases. Like, it increases the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. But it is less recognized that brain-related problems, like cognitive impairment, cerebrovascular disease, and stroke, have all been related to dietary salt.
The authors of the new research suggested that one probable mechanism behind these negative effects involves the endothelial cells. These cells are present inside the cerebral blood vessels.
Endothelial cells line the blood vessels mostly take part in regulating the vascular tone. But a high dietary intake of salt can cause dysfunction of endothelial cells.
Though it is known that epithelial dysfunction can cause a plethora of chronic disorders, but it remains uncertain exactly how salt-induced endothelial dysfunction may alter the brain in the long run.
How excessive salt affects the gut-brain axis
This is predominantly important that the brain greatly depends on a smooth and steady oxygen flow to different body parts to function properly, demonstrate the authors, who were led in their research efforts by Costantino Iadecola, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, NY.
In this paper, Iadecola and team demonstrate how excessive dietary salt affects our immune system, gut, and, ultimately, brain.
ladecola and his colleagues nourished a group of mice the same of a human diet high in salt for 12 weeks.
After some weeks, reduction in the blood flow to the brain as well as endothelial dysfunction could be observed in the mice. Furthermore, behavioral tests exposed cognitive drop in the rodents.
However, their blood pressure remained unchanged. An important finding was the rise in the gut’s so-called TH17 white blood cells. In result, large number of TH17 cells cause an increase in the plasma levels of interleukin-17 (IL-17) which are proinflammatory molecule.
The researchers also identify the molecular pathway through which higher levels of IL-17 in the blood can cause negative cognitive and cerebrovascular effects.
The researchers also wanted to check whether or not their discoveries would duplicate in human cells. So, they treated the endothelial cells of a human with IL-17 and achieved similar results.
As Iadecola and his team explain:
“The conclusions reveal a gut-brain axis. This axis explains the environmental factors linked to the diet leading to an adaptive immune response in the gut. Thus, promoting cognitive impairment and neurovascular dysregulation.”
Dietary changes can reverse negative effects
The good news is that the research found that the negative effects of the high-salt food appear to be reversible. After the 12 weeks, the mice were returned to their normal diet and the outcomes were positive.
“The harmful effects of a high-salt diet were nullified by returning those mice to their regular diet. It points out the reversibility of cognitive impairment and vascular dysfunction,” write the authors. Moreover, they also experimented with a drug which also inverted the effects of high salt. The amino acid like L-arginine had the same useful effect on the mice as returning them to a regular diet.
The research findings propose that lifestyle changes or a new class of drugs may help to compensate for the negative effects of excessive salt diet.