Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

OSU-CHS News > 2015

May 7, 2015

Research Spotlight: Understanding salt sensitivity


An Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences researcher wants to find out if women are more likely to have health problems due to high salt consumption than men.
“The prevailing philosophy is that a diet high in salt results in high blood pressure. For some people, reducing salt intake will reduce blood pressure; however, it does not work for everyone,” said Alexander Rouch, Ph.D., chair of the OSU-CHS Department of Pharmacology and Physiology and associate professor of physiology.

People who are ‘salt sensitive’ can reduce their blood pressure with a low salt diet, he said.

“Interestingly, some people can consume high salt diets without any increased blood pressure,” Rouch said. “The kidneys play the key role in determining if one is salt sensitive.” 

More specifically, Rouch is looking at the role that testosterone and estrogen play in developing salt sensitivity, a change in blood pressure resulting from a variation in salt intake.

“Many researchers believe that estrogen protects against hypertension, heart and kidney disease, and that women lose that protection after menopause” he said.

However, Rouch has found that estrogen raises the amount of salt that is reabsorbed from the kidney, which could increase salt sensitivity.

“Studying the impact of estrogen on salt reabsorption and blood pressure during high salt consumption will help us understand the role of this hormone in salt sensitivity,” he said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every three U.S. adults – or 70 million people – has high blood pressure.

“Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of hypertension, one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke,” said Kayse Shrum, D.O., president of OSU Center for Health Sciences. “Dr. Rouch’s research will provide insights into a potential cause for high blood pressure that could lead to the development of new treatments for one of our state’s top health problems.”

Rouch is head of an international review of salt sensitivity research submitted by scientists around the world. The effort is sponsored by Frontiers in Physiology, an international organization based in Switzerland.

“Our goal is to produce a compilation of the latest cutting-edge research on salt sensitivity and enhance collaborative efforts on this topic,” he said.

To learn more about Rouch’s research on salt sensitivity and other research at OSU Center for Health Sciences, visit the Research Spotlight website.

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