Did you know that too much salt is too bad? While it can cause cognitive deficits, too much salt in your diet can have devastating effects on your brain. Apart from increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and causing high blood pressure, it has been discovered that it also causes brain-related problems like cerebrovascular disease, stroke, and cognitive impairment. It was suggested the mechanism behind these negative effects involves the endothelial cells inside the cerebral blood vessels. These cells line our blood vessels and are responsible for regulating the vascular tone.
A high dietary intake of salt has been associated with dysfunction of these endothelial cells. While it is a known fact that the epithelial dysfunction can be the main cause for various chronic illnesses, it’s still unclear how the salt-induced endothelial dysfunction may affect the brain in the long run. Excessive intake of salt affects our gut, immune system, and, ultimately, our brain.
The study included feeding a group of mice the equivalent of a human diet high in salt for a period of 12 weeks. Apparently, after the first few weeks, endothelial dysfunction and a reduction in the blood flow to the brain were noticed in the mice. Additionally, behavioural tests revealed that their cognitive abilities have also declined. Their blood pressure remained unchanged though. There was an increase in the TH17 white blood cells in the gut, which led to an increase in the levels of a pro-inflammatory molecule called plasma interleukin-17 (IL-17). Researchers identified that this led to negative cognitive and cerebrovascular effects.
Since the researchers wanted to see whether these findings will replicate in human cells, they treated human endothelial cells with IL-17 and obtained similar results. However, the good news is that these negative effects of a high-salt diet are reversible. When the mice were returned to a normal diet after the 12 weeks, results looked positive.
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