Anyone who takes even a passing interest in their health knows that eating too much salt is bad for you, and particularly your blood pressure. But scientists from Australia claim it only takes half an hour for a salty snack to have a potentially damaging effect on your heart.
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the scientists suggest eating high-salt food quickly affects your blood vessels, making them unable to widen normally. And that's just in people with normal blood pressure.
The researchers took 16 healthy volunteers and gave half of them a cup of tomato soup that was low in salt, while the other half had a cup of soup that was 10 times saltier. After eating, the researchers tested the volunteers' arteries using an ultrasound machine.
They later did the same test again by switching the groups, so those who had the salty soup originally had the low-salt soup the second time around.
The results of the test showed that the volunteers who ate the salty soup - in both tests - showed restricted widening of their arteries (apparently their arteries widened about half as much compared to when they ate the low-salt soup).
The experts believe that salt blocks the release of a substance called nitric oxide, which naturally helps artery walls relax. And even if the artery-restricting effect only lasts a few hours, if the same thing happens on a regular basis it could lead to a condition called atherosclerosis - where fat builds up in the blood vessels and, eventually, causes a blockage, they claim.
Have you tried reducing the amount of salt in your diet?