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Salt in the wound

Science and mystery often go hand in hand, and this is a perfect example: when you have a skin infection, you tend to have more salt in the infected skin. But why is that? Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The salt is probably doing something in regards to immune response, and it’s possible that how much salt you eat could also play a role. Resist the urge to skip to the end of this mystery -- the buildup is worth it.

Study under review: Cutaneous Na+ storage strengthens the antimicrobial barrier function of the skin and boosts macrophage-driven host defense

Introduction

Our bodies are like walled cities. Many microorganisms live on and within us, happily coexisting and even contributing to our well-being. However, invading harmful microorganisms need to be kept out. We have several layers of defense in order to keep out marauding invaders. These include defensive physical barriers, such as the skin, as well as weaponized troops manning the parapets: our immune system, which can be subdivided into the innate and the adaptive immune systems.

The innate immune system initiates rapid, albeit nonspecific, responses to intruders. It is the front-line defense against foreign invasion. The process of inflammation is the primary component of the innate immune system. The adaptive system develops specific antibodies that recognize specific foreign invaders with amazing sensitivity and long-lasting protection. These antibodies are developed through a complicated iterative process and are continually screened and selected for pathogen specificity, which results in a type of defense that is not as immediate as that provided by the innate immunity.

The study under review describes an entirely new mechanism through which the innate immune system can ward off infections. This is a rare occurrence. If the data can be reproduced, this mechanism is undoubtedly something that will find its way into immunology textbooks in the near future. The size of the team (28 scientists) and the number of affiliations (14) that contributed to the study alone speaks volumes about the breadth of the work involved. While this research is sophisticated, one of the main players in this study is something we’re all familiar with: sodium.

The body defends itself against foreign invaders through the use of physical barriers as well as the innate and adaptive immune system. A new mechanism of the innate immune system involving sodium ions was recently described in the paper under review.

Who and what was studied and what were the findings?

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Other Articles in Issue #10 (August 2015)

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    Although both cheese and meat are lumped into the “watch out!” category in hearthealth recommendations, dairy products often show neutral or positive associations with cardiovascular health. But how do cheese-rich diets fare in randomized trials when compared to other diets? This trial tested three diets against each other in a highly controlled fashion: a cheese diet, meat diet, and high-carb diet.
  • All up in your krill: The story on krill
    Oil thus far has been fairly simplistic: it’s better than fish oil and more expensive. But there’s a reason why you can’t draw conclusions based off few studies, and successful results in one condition don’t apply to other conditions. This trial gives some of the first pieces of evidence for possible negative metabolic effects of krill oil.
  • Omega-3: kid-tested, mom approved?
    While heart health gets much of the attention for fish oil benefits (which, incidentally, are often overstated), outcomes in children typically show more promise. This study, involving children and their parents living on the island of Mauritius, explored possible behavioral benefits to fish oil supplementation. And not just the childrens’ behavior, but the parents’ as well!
  • Priming the pump: carb levels for endurance exercise
    If you run, cycle, or do anything long and sweaty, then you already know that carb intake is especially important for endurance activity. But recommended intakes range from around 30-60 grams, which is pretty broad. This trial can help you get to a more specific number, and possibly perform better.
  • A thorough trial of carb intake for diabetes
    There are few conditions where carbs play as direct of a role as in type 2 diabetes. Yet the recommended carb intake levels for this condition aren’t so different than for the general population. That may change at some point, due to trials like this one, which is more highly controlled and thorough than previous lower-carb & diabetes studies.
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  • Carbs-protein or protein-carbs …
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