Speaking at a conference last week, Dr Mohaupt from the department of Nephrology/Hypertension at the University of Bern told the audience of the case of a pregnant woman whose high blood pressure was lowered by increasing the amount of salt in her diet.
Doctors recommended that the woman, who was suffering from pre-eclampsia, consumed 20g of salt a day. As a result of the salt increase the woman's systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped by 16 mmHg and 12 mmHg.
"Salt supplementation may be useful to control intravascular volume and BP in pregnant women," conclude the researchers from Bern, who outlined their findings at the congress on hypertension in pregnancy in Vienna, Austria last week.
Pre-eclampsia is a disease which only occurs in pregnancy. About 6-10 per cent of all pregnant women in Western European countries suffer from this disease, and the main symptoms are swollen extremities (edema), rising blood pressure (hypertension) and protein spills in the urine (proteinuria).
The scientists believe that due to the potential preventive and therapeutic consequences of salt supplementation in pregnant women, further studies 'are mandatory.'
During pregnancy the extra cellular volume of a woman's body increases by 4-6 litres of liquid and to manage this additional fluid women could benefit from extra water and salt.
But in men, and women who are not pregnant, eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, a cause or contributing factor in 170,000 deaths a year in England alone. The cost to the UK's health body, the National Health Service, for prescriptions to reduce high blood pressure is around £840 million per year, nearly 15 per cent of the total annual cost of all primary care drugs.
Recent figures from the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), that launched a major public health campaign in September to combat salt intake, assert that every day at least 26 million people eat more than the recommended daily limit of 6g of salt. Men are eating the most with a daily average of 11g of salt while women consume an average of 8.1g a day.
The FSA claims that about 75 per cent of salt consumed is from processed food, 10-15 per cent is added by consumers and 10-15 per cent is naturally present in food.