Study: Salty diet may increase risk of dry, itchy skin

A high-sodium diet may increase the risk of developing eczema, according to a new study by researchers at UC San Francisco. 

Published on June 5 in JAMA Dermatology, the study found that consuming just an extra gram of sodium daily—equivalent to the amount found in a Big Mac—can raise the likelihood of an eczema flare by 22%.

High sodium intake linked to eczema

Eczema, which affects 31 million Americans, is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. The study revealed that even a small increase in sodium intake could significantly impact those prone to eczema.

Researchers analyzed urine samples and medical records of over 215,000 UK residents aged between 30 and 70. By examining the sodium levels in urine, they linked each additional gram of sodium excreted over 24 hours to an 11% higher chance of an eczema diagnosis, a 16% greater likelihood of a flare-up, and an 11% increased risk of severe eczema.

The scientists reviewed data from 13,000 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to expand their research. They found that an additional gram of sodium daily led to a 22% higher chance of an active case of eczema, reinforcing the UK study's conclusions.

Expert recommendations

Dr. Katrina Abuabara, an associate professor of dermatology at UCSF and the study's corresponding author, emphasized the importance of moderating sodium intake. 

"Most Americans eat too much salt and can safely reduce their intake to recommended levels," Abuabara said in a statement

She added that managing sodium consumption could help patients better control eczema flares, which are often unpredictable and challenging to manage.


Sprinkling salt: A new study links high sodium intake to increased risk of eczema flare-ups.

Eczema affects one in 10 people in the United States, so these findings highlight the need for dietary awareness and modification. Reducing sodium intake could be a simple yet effective strategy to mitigate the risk and severity of eczema, improving the quality of life for millions of individuals.

What is eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition that makes your skin itchy, red, and inflamed. It often appears on hands, feet, face, and behind the knees. Eczema isn’t contagious, so you can't catch it from others.

According to the National Eczema Foundation, eczema affects 31 million Americans—one in 10 people will get it in their lifetime.

The exact cause is unclear, but it's linked to genetics and environmental triggers like allergens, irritants, stress, and weather changes. Eczema often runs in families with a history of allergies or asthma.

Symptoms include:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Red, inflamed patches
  • Intense itching
  • Scaly areas
  • Blisters or oozing
  • Thickened skin

There’s no cure, but treatments can help manage symptoms. These include moisturizers, prescription creams, medications, and avoiding triggers.