Multiple Sclerosis Community
9.2k Members
Avatar universal

MS is linked to high-salt diet

Here's a report that suggests that a diet high in salt might lead to the development of MS.


It's very preliminary, and I have to wonder if it will hold up upon further research. Both of my parents were 'saltoholics' and I grew up using much more salt than I do now. I don't know why, but a lot of stuff I used to eat seems too salty now, and I have adjusted my cooking and eating accordingly. I don't have high BP or any other conditions that salt might affect.

But this sounds suspiciously simplistic to me, even though it's not suggested that salt plays a major role in MS. I have 4 siblings who don't have MS, after all. What's your experience?


16 Responses
1831849 tn?1383231992
It does sound rather odd. I have never eaten a high salt diet, very little packaged food. Recently, due to borderline low blood pressure, my docs have told me to salt my food really well :-)

Avatar universal
I grew up with very little salt or salty food and have kept that consistency while raising my children  , so that takes me out of the high salt column

I am the only one in my family with ms
3986919 tn?1352129583
LOL! I am a salt-a-holic! But not always....I was once dx with Neurocardiogenic Sycope back 20yrs ago when I had my first attack. (Had 2 tilt table tests ect...) They told me to eat lots of salt....so I did. Now I am addicted! :)

572651 tn?1531002957
this one caught my attention on the web and it left me with the dilemma - to salt or not to salt?  My  blood pressure had been so low about 18 months ago that my cardiologist gave me the choice of eat more salt or add another pill to my regimen.  I picked the salt and now  read that might be bad for my MS.

What's a girl to do????
382218 tn?1341185087
Interesting development but I won't be changing my habits until there's more research.  I tend towards low blood pressure as well.  And, I love salt.  On just about everything.  Including chocolate.  It would be hard for me to give up.  But if I had to, I would.
987762 tn?1331031553
Hey ess,

Its an interesting idea about salt possibly playing a role in MS, there's suppose to be 'salt craving' as a sign of a few autoimmune conditions, some do have sx's that mimic MS. see list of autoimmune diseases American Autoimmune related diseases association..... https://www.aarda.org/research_display.php?ID=47

Many moon's ago I would openly call my self a chip-o-holic, I craved crispy potato chips but I didn't crave other salty foods or even salt my food. When i brought it up with my dr of the time, after blood tests she just put it down to the hypoglycaemia she'd dx me with. The hypoglycaemia I didn't have or ever met the diagnostic criteria for lol but salt craving is a sign apparently.

I'm the same, I dont have low/high blood pressure and nothings ever been discovered to explain why I had a specific salty craving. I do have to wonder if it was probably more desire/habbit based than a medical need because for years nothing was discovered to explain it and i've definitely replaced crispy potato chips with cheese instead.

I dont know if its relevant, its my experience with salt hmmmm cravings are associated with allergies in some way too. Off the top of my over heated brain, I seem to recall reading something regarding food allergies, where its possible to have a craving for the very thing that your allergic too, thats been proven to be true with both my kids allergies but if that works across the board its probably not so black and white.


PS again not sure if it related but 3 generations of females in my family have all been dx with autoimmune conditions, though all different.    

1045086 tn?1332130022
OF COURSE salt isn’t good for us and might be an environmental trigger for MS development.  Makes a person wonder why salt is in the kitchen anyway.  Apparently what’s good ON food turns deadly after it’s IN us.

So this is interesting but I’m not sure where it leaves me.  I grew up in the garden state eating tomatoes and corn all summer - and that meant salt.

Nowadays I don’t overdo it but I do have times when I crave salt.  It seems especially bad when the autonomic symptoms are revved up.  On the other hand… my serum sodium tends to hover around and just below the southern border of normal.  Then again… the doctor says I can’t eat my way to a higher serum sodium - it’s about fluids and if the sodium is hanging out in the blood or tissues.  I sure hope my brain cells aren’t soaking it all up!

All in all, no matter where this discovery may lead there isn’t much chance I’m going to be inspired to make huge changes to my diet.  Not proud of that it just is what it is.  Most days I feel like all this is coming too late for me anyway.

I’m not too worried in the end because doctors will issue new dietary recommendations as soon as I think I understand the old ones anyway - even as they resurrect and recycle their favorite dietary villains.

One thing that really caught my eye in all this was the statement that
“Pediatric multiple sclerosis was virtually unheard of 20 years ago, and now more and more cases are being reported.”

Well, well, well.  Wouldn’t HVAC have a story to tell him about that?!  Any chance increased reporting is a result of increased recognition?  Things like pediatric MS tend to go about disrupting lives for quite some time before neuros will even consider their potential existence.  Just sayin’.
3205586 tn?1362846585
I also bet ms is linked to water consumption, a lack of exercise, or too much exercise, having allergies as a child, and having an all around general stellar personality. :) I kid.
I get a bit suspicious of "studies" like this too, as link standards via research like this are pretty weak.
Is it causation or correlation?

That said, thank you for posting this as it is interesting. I've craved salt terribly for years up until the last 6 months or so....
198419 tn?1360245956
Interesting indeed. I was aware of the calcium our our kidneys produce to counter salt (it's why I have to watch my salt because I get kidney stones), but the indepth biology they discuss where the regular enzyme exposed to salt transforming into a pathogenic one is even more intriguing.

Doubtful it's a smoking gun, but I'd venture a bet this will be helpful to disease modifiers of the future.  

I hope too they are careful with their reporting. So people understand this was added directly to the cell, and "Mice genetically prone to develop a form of multiple sclerosis developed more severe disease when fed a high salt diet."

667078 tn?1316004535
Okay now we get MS from not getting enough sun, EBV, being fat as teenagers, and too much salt. I think there would be way more MS in the world. At least as many as diabetics.

Avatar universal
Note that this article is about development of MS. It doesn't cover people who already have MS and whether their consumption of salt now has any effect on their disease process. Maybe, even if this hypothesis turns out to be true, it's too late for MSers, sort of locking the barn door once the horse is gone.

I've often wondered about vitamin D in this regard as well. There is pretty good science linking low D during one's developmental years (low exposure to sunshine) and MS, though of course this is not true for everyone in every circumstance. But why do our neuros keep at us now to attain or maintain good D levels. Mine wants my D in the 50s. Isn't it too late for that?

MS is so complicated! So much interplay between various nebulous factors, and no unifying element.

987762 tn?1331031553
I'm a bit sceptical of the vit D connection, in OZ we are obviously a sunny country but we still have high stats, 1 in 3 are too low in Vit D. I would of expected our MS stats to be a lot higher if Vit D did play a 'major' role. There's also a lot of information coming at us about low Vit D and other conditions too, it just seems to be a hot research topic and for reasons never quite explained, its getting connected to far too many things, for me to believe Vit D could be a major player in everything its being connected too, but thats me lol.

I think many discovery's are often short on the why factor, why is salt-a-holic, low Vit D, ex-smoking, born in USA, none exercising, over weight Jenny NOT dx with MS or anything else. But her sister Sally who grew up in the same environment and isn't a salt-a-holic, has normal Vit D, never smoked, born in the USA, regularly exercises and is of normal weight, IS dx with MS?

Now if they connected chocolate to MS, there would be a world wide uproar lol


667078 tn?1316004535
Vitamin D levels are important for other reasons than MS. Mostly our bones. I had great vitamin D Levels before my Cancer surgery. Now I have to take supplements. MSers do not need brittle bones.

382218 tn?1341185087
Low Vitamin D is currently being linked to such a wide range of unrelated conditions, mainly many cancers and autoimmune diseases, due to its apparent effect on immune function.  It's plausible to me.  Much more research is needed though, to get from mere association to actual causation.
667078 tn?1316004535
I grew up in the tropics, was outside  in the sun constantly and had a good diet and had high levels of Vitamin D with out supplements until this year because of the Cancer surgery and chemo. I got MS and Cancer anyway go figure. Oh and I am told I have a low sodium problem. Doctors have always told me to eat more salt.
1045086 tn?1332130022
It isn’t clear to me what all they are thinking ess.

The report states scientists have “found an enzyme that, when exposed to salt, causes a regular immune cell to transform into a pathogenic one, spewing out inflammatory proteins that have been linked to autoimmune illnesses.”
     So….. Relapses are often associated with inflammation.  Is there a connection to relapse?  And do we know yet which comes first - inflammation or demyelination?

The report also states that “mice genetically predisposed to develop a form of multiple sclerosis had more severe disease when they were fed a high-salt diet, and that mice lacking the SGK1 gene had less severe disease.”

     But they ALL still had the disease right?  Even the ones without the predisposition?  So were they given this diet before or after developing the disease?  It isn’t clear even if only due to poor sentence structure.  Then again, they are mice and we are men.

Did you notice the exuberant Dr. Steinman** who was “quite elated” when he saw the work?  He wasn’t involved in this research but he plans (this year) to “launch a trial of a drug for MS patients that targets a different, but related process involved in salt regulation. ‘I’m such a strong believer that salt matters that I’m pushing this into the clinic.’”

     To me this sounds like he must believe there is application of this new finding for people who already have MS.  Especially since his personal research focuses on what provokes relapses and remissions in MS.

**Dr. Steinman is no fly-by-night.  He is a professor of neurology at Stanford University with impressive credentials and accomplishment, among them research linked to Tysabri development.  A profile write-up can be found at http://steinmanlab.stanford.edu/LawrenceSteinman.html.

My original response may have sounded snarky in spots but this really is interesting stuff that could have real application for us!
Have an Answer?
Top Neurology Answerers
987762 tn?1331031553
5265383 tn?1483811956
1756321 tn?1547098925
Queensland, Australia
1780921 tn?1499305393
Queen Creek, AZ
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out how beta-blocker eye drops show promising results for acute migraine relief.
In this special Missouri Medicine report, doctors examine advances in diagnosis and treatment of this devastating and costly neurodegenerative disease.
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.
Discover some of the causes of dizziness and how to treat it.
Discover the common causes of headaches and how to treat headache pain.
Two of the largest studies on Alzheimer’s have yielded new clues about the disease