How High-Sodium Diets Affect Eczema Risk

High-Sodium Diets and Eczema

Fast Facts

High Sodium Intake: Linked to increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular issues

Eczema Flare-Ups: Study shows a high-sodium diet correlates with more frequent and severe eczema symptoms

Research: Conducted by UCSF and UC Berkeley, examining over 216,000 adults

Key Finding: Each additional gram of sodium per day linked to an 11% increase in severe eczema risk

Dietary Guidelines: U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day.

High-sodium diets have long been associated with increased risks of hypertension, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues. However, new research suggests that a diet high in salt may also lead to more frequent eczema flare-ups.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the University of California, Berkeley, found a significant correlation between high-sodium diets and the development of atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema. The study revealed that an extra gram of sodium per day—about 1000 milligrams or the amount in a Big Mac—was linked to an 11% higher risk of developing severe eczema.

“This research is exciting because it has been recently shown that sodium is stored in the skin, which could help to explain the connection with inflammatory pathways in eczema,” stated Dr. Katrina Abuabara, an associate professor of epidemiology at UCSF and the senior author of the study, in a news release.

Researchers hope this new evidence will encourage people to adhere more closely to sodium intake guidelines. “Although it hasn’t yet been proven that reducing dietary salt can improve eczema, most Americans eat too much salt and can safely reduce salt intake to recommended levels,” added Abuabara.

Sodium Intake and Eczema Risk, Explained

Eczema is described by Abuabara as “a chronic, systemic inflammatory condition characterized by itchy rashes that tend to come and go.” While it was once thought to primarily affect children, recent data show that it is also common in adults, with around 10% of the U.S. population having eczema.

To understand why there might be a link between sodium intake and eczema, it’s essential to know how sodium is processed in the body. Traditionally, it was believed that the kidneys were responsible for regulating sodium levels. However, newer research indicates that most of the body’s sodium is stored in the skin, with the immune and lymphatic systems in the skin playing a role in managing the body’s electrolyte balance.

Given that sodium is stored in the skin, it may influence certain autoimmune skin conditions, a hypothesis that researchers aimed to explore further in their study.

The Study’s Findings

For the study, researchers analyzed urine samples collected over a 24-hour period from nearly 216,000 adults aged 37 to 73 from the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database. Approximately 11,000 participants, or about 5%, had been diagnosed with eczema.

The average participant’s “urine sodium excretion” was about 3 grams per day. The study found that with every 1-gram increase in sodium excretion, the likelihood of active or severe eczema increased. Each additional gram of sodium was linked to an 11% increase in eczema diagnosis, a 16% increase in active eczema flares, and an 11% increase in eczema severity.

Eating for Eczema Management

While this study might suggest that moderating sodium intake could be an effective eczema management strategy, further research is needed to establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between sodium and eczema flares.

Nevertheless, there are many health benefits to reducing sodium intake, including managing or preventing high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping salt intake below 2,300 milligrams per day, yet many Americans consume nearly 50% more than this amount regularly.

To moderate sodium intake, focus on whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, and seafood. Avoid highly processed foods and traditional high-sodium foods like salty snacks, condiments, and deli meats.

“Although nutrition cannot treat eczema,” noted Maude Morin, MAN, RD, a registered dietitian at JM Nutrition, “ensuring that we provide the body with nutrients to support skin health and reduce inflammation (like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A and C) while managing body weight could help with the management of this chronic condition.”


The findings of this latest study are groundbreaking and could pave the way for future research into the connections between diet and eczema. While the direct impact of sodium reduction on eczema management is yet to be confirmed, adhering to recommended sodium intake levels has numerous other health benefits. As research in this area progresses, we may soon better understand how dietary choices can influence skin health and conditions like eczema

A Quick Review

New research from UCSF and UC Berkeley has found that high-sodium diets may increase the risk and severity of eczema. An extra gram of sodium per day correlates with an 11% higher risk of severe eczema. This connection is thought to be due to sodium storage in the skin, impacting inflammatory pathways. While further research is needed to establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship, moderating sodium intake is beneficial for overall health and could potentially help manage eczema symptoms.

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