London: Doctors have been telling us for long that too much salt is bad for our health.
However, the controversial results of an eight-year study by Belgium scientists have suggested that eating a diet high in salt is not only good for you, but could also reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack or a stroke.
"The study indicates that those who eat the least sodium – about one teaspoon a day – don`t show any health advantage over those who eat the most," reports the Daily Mail.
In fact, those with less salty diets actually had slightly higher death rates from heart disease.
The study, which followed 3,681 healthy European men and women aged 60 or younger, also found that above-average salt intake did not appear to increase the danger of developing high blood pressure.
Sodium was measured in the urine of those taking part, at the beginning and end of the study.
A little more than six per cent of the participants suffered a heart attack, a stroke or some other cardiovascular emergency during the eight years. About a third of these were fatal.
Those who consumed the least salt had a 56 per cent higher risk of death from a heart attack or stroke compared with those who consumed the most.
This was even after obesity, cholesterol levels, smoking, diabetes and other risk factors were taken into account.
There were 50 deaths in the third of participants with the lowest salt consumption, 24 in the third with medium intake and just ten deaths in those with the highest salt levels.
Lead researcher Jan Staessen, head of the hypertension laboratory at the University of Leuven, in Belgium, said, "Our findings do not support a generalised reduction of salt intake in the population."
The scientists, however, did not have a firm explanation for their results, but they reportedly speculated that low levels of salt in the body could cause more stress in the nervous system, decrease sensitivity to insulin and affect hormones that control blood pressure and sodium absorption.
The findings appear in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.