Eating too much salt can trigger an adaptive immune response in the gut that leads to reduced resting blood flow in the brain and the development of dementia, at least in mice, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine. Constantino ladecola, Ph.D., and colleagues suggest that their studies are the first to demonstrate how a high-salt diet (HSD) can impact resting cerebral perfusion, neurovascular regulation, and cognitive function by mechanisms that are independent of any effects on blood pressure. “We discovered that mice fed a HSD developed dementia even when blood pressure did not rise,” explains Dr. ladecola, who is director of the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) and the Anne Parrish Titzell Professor of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “This was surprising since, in humans, the deleterious effects of salt on cognition were attributed to hypertension.”
The team’s results also highlight a potential target for reducing the harmful effects of excess salt consumption on the brain. Describing their studies in Nature Neuroscience, the team says the findings “unveil a previously undescribed gut–brain axis whereby dietary habits compromise the brain microvasculature, leading to altered brain function and cognitive impairment.” Their published paper is entitled “Dietary Salt Promotes Neurovascular and Cognitive Dysfunction through a Gut-Initiated TH17 Response.”
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