Salt has long been known to cause major heart problems. But we always thought that it had little to do with what the scales said.
However, it turns out there's quite a worrying link between high-salt diets and being overweight.
Researchers at Australia's Deakin University analysed the urine of 666 school children and found 70 per cent of the children ate over the maximum amount of salt recommended for good health.
Children who took part in the study were eating on average 6 grams – over a teaspoon of salt – a day. The recommended daily amount is 4- 5 grams.
Each additional gram is associated with "a 23 per cent greater likelihood with being overweight or obese," explained lead researcher Dr Carley Grimes.
"Foods that contain higher levels of salt may enhance the flavour of foods which are often also higher in fat and energy and a salty diet may also encourage greater consumption of high energy sugar-sweetened beverages when these are available.
"This study is ringing alarm bells as we now have good evidence to indicate the need to cut the amount of salt that our children are eating," added Dr. Grimes.
The effects can impact on a child into adulthood too, if not addressed.
"Such high intakes of salt are setting children up for a lifetime risk of future chronic disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease," she further explained.
The occurrence of abdominal obesity was also higher in children aged 4-7 years old and 8-12 years old, who registered the highest intake of salt out of the sample.
Carrying extra weight around the stomach increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Professor Garry Jennings, Chief Executive of Australia's National Heart Foundation which funded the study, said the results are cause for serious concern.
"It highlights the importance of salt reduction to reduce the risk of future chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease later in life," he commented.
The findings are published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
To reduce the amount of salt in your child's diet, avoid buying processed foods and ready meals and try not to add much (if any) salt to home-cooked meals.
SHARE if you want to reduce the salt in your family's diet.