High-Salt Diet May Harm Liver

High-Salt Diet May Harm LiverHigh-Salt Diet May Harm Liver

It is well known that consuming too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. Now, a new study suggests it may also lead to liver damage in adults and developing embryos.

The study, led by Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Our bodies need salt – or sodium chloride - to carry out essential functions. For example, sodium ions help control the transport of water and carry electrical impulses in nerves.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

The average daily sodium intake for Americans aged 2 years and older is over 3,400 mg of sodium - more than double the 1,500 mg limit recommended by national dietary guidelines for adults.

Most of the salt people consume does not come from the salt shaker. It is already in food by the time it reaches the table - from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. So, while asking people to reduce salt intake has some effect in that they can look at labels to pick lower salt products, there is also a need to get producers to reduce sodium content of packaged and prepared foods, reported.

Previous studies have suggested that too much sodium can damage the liver. In the new study, researchers carried out experiments where they fed adult mice on a high-salt diet and exposed chick embryos to a salty environment.

The results showed that too much sodium led to a number of changes in the liver - such as misshapen cells, higher rates of cell death and lower rates of cell division - all of which can lead to liver fibrosis through oxidative stress.

Liver fibrosis occurs when there is excessive accumulation of “extracellular matrix” proteins like collagen that support the cells that do the work of the liver - such as breaking down old and damaged cells and metabolizing fats for energy.

Oxidative stress can increase inflammatory cells and promote the death of liver cells, leading to progressive fibrosis.

However, on a more promising note, the team also found that treating damaged cells with vitamin C - an antioxidant - appeared to counter some of the damage brought on by too much salt.