London: Cutting back on salt doesn't appear to protect your heart and it may actually increase several risk factors that may lead to cardiovascular diseases, a new study has claimed.

Reducing our daily salt intake is believed to protect the heart by lowering blood pressure -- one of the leading risk factors for stroke and heart disease.

But, a review of 67 past studies involving over 40,000 people found that a reduced salt intake triggered a 2.5 per cent rise in cholesterol and a seven percent rise in a type of fat that can cause blood clots, the a daily reported.

The researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark also found that the dietary change also caused the kidneys to release more of a protein called rennin and its hormone aldosterone which is linked with high blood pressure.

Lead researcher Dr Niels Graudal said: "An increase in [cholesterol] would increase the risk of cardiovascular death."

He said that instead of people reducing their salt intake they should concentrating on quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and losing weight.

The study follows the results of the Exeter University study that concluded there was "no strong evidence" lowering levels of salt in the diet reduced the risk of heart disease or premature death.

But many are sceptical of the recent findings, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, and said it is not enough to devalue the major benefits of cutting back on sodium.

Prof Graham MacGregor, chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, said detailed examination of the latest paper showed there was no significant increase in cholesterol that lasted more than a month.

And small increases in renin and aldosterone at four weeks are similar to that which occurs when diuretics are given to reduce blood pressure, Prof MacGregor said.

He said: "This study, contrary to the authors' claims, supports the wealth of evidence that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial in preventing strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, the commonest causes of death and disability in the world."

Meanwhile Keith Ferdinand, chief scientific officer of the Association of Black Cardiologists, said: "This study does nothing to defer the recommendation that across the general population, sodium restriction would have a huge benefit in terms of decreasing cardiovascular disease, and perhaps lives saved."

Adults are recommended to eat no more than 6g of salt a day -- around one teaspoon full -- and salt intake can be reduced by being wary of foods such as bacon, cheese, salami, salted and dry roasted nuts.

(Agencies)