ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 24, 2016

Too much salt could potentially contribute to liver damage

"Liver Fibrosis Can Be Induced by High Salt Intake through Excess Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) Production"
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

A sprinkle of salt can bring out the flavor of just about any dish. However, it’s well known that too much can lead to high blood pressure, a potentially dangerous condition if left untreated. Now scientists report a new animal study that found a high-salt diet might also contribute to liver damage in adults and developing embryos. It appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Our bodies need a small amount of salt — the U.S. government recommends one teaspoon per day if you are a healthy adult. Among other functions, the sodium ions from the savory mineral help regulate water movement within the body and conduct nerve impulses. But most Americans eat too much salt. Some research indicates that in addition to high blood pressure, overconsumption of sodium can damage the liver. Xuesong Yang and colleagues wanted to explore the potential effect at a cellular level.

The researchers gave adult mice a high-salt diet and exposed chick embryos to a briny environment. Excessive sodium was associated with a number of changes in the animals’ livers, including oddly shaped cells, an increase in cell death and a decrease in cell proliferation, which can contribute to the development of fibrosis. On a positive note, the researchers did find that treating damaged cells with vitamin C appeared to partially counter the ill effects of excess salt.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province, the Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.

Studies in mice show a high-salt diet harms liver cells.
Credit: LeventKonuk/iStock/Thinkstock