EATING too much salt over several years can damage blood vessels, a study has found.
It is further evidence of salt raising blood pressure and causing ill-health.
Scientists checked two markers of blood vessel damage in a Dutch population of more than 5,500 men and women.
Uric acid was tested in the blood and albumen in the urine.
High sodium intake, from eating salt, was associated with increasing levels of both markers.
People consuming the most, around 6,200mg per day, were 21pc more likely to develop high blood pressure.
One gram of sodium is roughly the equivalent of 2.5g of table salt.
Of the high salt consumers, those who also had high urine albumin had an 86pc increased risk. High uric acid and high salt increased the chances of high blood pressure by 32pc.
"The study's results add to the considerable evidence that a diet heavy on salt is closely linked to high blood pressure," said lead researcher Dr John Forman, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, US.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This study reinforces the importance of keeping our salt intake low.
"In the UK, the amount of salt we eat on average is above the recommended maximum of six grams a day which is about a teaspoon.
"The findings are therefore an important reminder to us all about the potential dangers of eating too much salt."
While some of the risks associated with salt have been known for years and many consumers are slower to add salt to food on the table, salt continues to be a significant ingredient in many prepared foods.