A new study suggests that consuming too much salt is not only linked to high blood pressure but it may also lead to liver damage in adults and develop embryos.
The new study, led by Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Previous studies have already suggested that too much sodium can damage the liver. In the new study, the researchers wanted to look in more detail at what happens at the level of cells.
The team 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.
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.
The researchers suggest the mechanism through which too much salt may cause liver damage and fibrosis in both adults and developing embryos is through oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is where the balance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidants is upset in favor of the former. Such an imbalance can increase inflammatory cells and promote the death of liver cells, leading to progressive fibrosis.
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