Lead investigator Dr. Todd Alexander and his fellow researchers recently found a critical link between sodium and calcium. Both of these compounds appear to be regulated by the same molecule in the body. When sodium intake becomes too high, the body eliminates the excess through the urine, taking calcium with it and depleting stores in the body. High levels of calcium in the urine can lead to the development of kidney stones and inadequate levels of calcium in the body can cause brittle bones and osteoporosis.
According to Alexander, "When the body tries to get rid of sodium via the urine, our findings suggest the body also gets rid of calcium at the same time. This is significant since we are eating more and more sodium in our diets which means our bodies are getting rid of more and more calcium. Our findings reinforce why it is important to have a low-sodium diet and why it is important to have lower sodium levels in processed foods."
The scientific community has long known that this important molecule was responsible for sodium absorption in the body; however the discovery that it also plays a role in calcium regulation is a new development. Alexander adds, "We asked a simple question with our research - could sodium and calcium absorption be linked? And we discovered they are.”
For their research, Alexander’s team worked with lab models that didn’t have this important molecule, so the models’ urine contained elevated levels of calcium. Since calcium was not absorbed and retained by the body, bones became brittle. The molecule has the potential to be a drug target that one day may aid in preventing kidney stones and osteoporosis.
National Director of the Research of Kidney Foundation of Canada states, "Data in the United States shows that nearly 10% of adults will have a kidney stone at least once in their life. The prevalence of kidney stones also seems to be increasing in the U.S., which may be attributed to high rates ofobesity and diabetes, along with possibly increased salt intake."