We're forever being told to cut back on salt - but will eating less really help us to live longer? According to one new study, eating less salt will NOT prevent heart attacks, strokes or early death.
The medical profession and the Government have been warning the public to consume less salt for years, but researchers from Exeter University say the health benefits have been 'overestimated'.
The controversial study concluded that there was 'no strong evidence' to suggest that cutting back on salt reduced the risk of heart disease or premature death. The average adult consumes around 9g of salt each day - 3g more than the current recommendations. The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) would like to see that figure reduced by two thirds, to 3g by 2025.
It's widely accepted that a diet high in salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Despite this, the authors of the study say that there is limited evidence to suggest eating less salt reduces the risk of illness or early death.
Lead researcher, Rod Taylor, said: "Perhaps surprisingly we didn't find any statistically significant reduction in death or cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes."
However, he admits that they didn't see big benefits because the people in the trials they analysed only reduced their salt intake by a moderate amount, so the effect on blood pressure and heart disease was minimal.
Katharine Jenner, of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, said she was disappointed by the message from this one 'small review'.
She said: "This is a completely inappropriate conclusion, given the strong evidence and the overwhelming public health consensus that salt raises blood pressure which leads to cardiovascular disease.
"This review is based on just seven studies that were not designed to test the effects of sodium reduction interventions on cardiovascular events and mortality."
New findings reported on salt consumption - Mon, 09 May 2011
A new study from Belgium has found that salt could help reduce the chances of heart disease, although it did not find that taking more salt in your food has any health benefits, as the research reviewed levels of salt in people's urine, not their diet .
The study involved monitoring salt levels in the urine of nearly 3,700 patients with an average age of around 38-40 for nearly eight years, to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), high blood pressure and other related conditions.
There were 84 CVD-related deaths reported among the group, with 50 CVD-related deaths in the third of participants who recorded the lowest salt levels, while there were only 10 deaths in those passing the most salt.
However, this result does not necessarily indicate that salt increases blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular problems, as salt in urine does not have to equate with the amount of salt in the diet. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pointed out that it could also be due to factors such as the effectiveness of the kidneys in processing sodium.
The report also stated that the findings were mainly relevant for white Europeans and should not be generalised to other ethnic groups, and that further research is needed to clarify the association between salt intake, blood pressure and related mortality.