The role of salt for immune cell function and disease

Immunology. 2018 Jul;154(3):346-353. doi: 10.1111/imm.12915. Epub 2018 Mar 24.


The immune system evolved to protect organisms from invading pathogens. A network of pro- and anti-inflammatory cell types equipped with special effector molecules guarantees efficient elimination of intruders like viruses and bacteria. However, imbalances can lead to an excessive response of effector cells incurring autoimmune or allergic diseases. An interplay of genetic and environmental factors contributes to autoimmune diseases and recent studies provided evidence for an impact of dietary habits on the immune status and related disorders. Western societies underwent a change in lifestyle associated with changes in food consumption. Salt (sodium chloride) is one component prevalent in processed food frequently consumed in western countries. Here we summarize recent advances in understanding the mechanisms behind the effects of sodium chloride on immune cells like regulatory T cells (Tregs) and T helper (TH ) 17 cells and its implication as a risk factor for several diseases.

Keywords: T helper (TH) 17 cells; autoimmunity; diet; regulatory T cell; sodium chloride.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Salts / metabolism*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / metabolism


  • Salts
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary