Gourmet salts favoured by celebrity chefs are expensive and have no health benefits, according to a report published today.

Gourmet salts contain almost 100 per cent sodium chloride, just like average table salt, meaning that they are likely to have exactly the same effect on your blood pressure and health.

Claims that rock and sea salts are “natural” and “contain minerals” are misleading and should be ignored, according to the report, which has been published by scientists leading a campaign to reduce the amount of salt consumed in the UK, backed by Which?, the consumers’ association.

A survey of Which? members suggested that almost 50 per cent of consumers thought that it was worth paying more for gourmet salt. About 25 per cent thought gourmet salts were healthier, while 39 per cent believed they were more natural.

Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at Which?, said: “Many of us are trying to reduce the amount of salt in our diet but our research shows people are needlessly spending more money on ‘premium’ salt because they often believe it is healthier than traditional table salt.”

Gourmet salts contain almost 100 per cent sodium chloride, just like average table salt, meaning that they are likely to have exactly the same effect on your blood pressure and health. One leading campaigner said that the large crystals favoured by gourmet salt manufacturers were possibly more damaging because they took longer to dissolve, and taste less salty as a result.

“It is disgraceful that chefs still encourage people to use so much sea and rock salt,” said a spkesman at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.  He added  that measures had been taken to warn of the dangers of salt and health, with consumption in Britain falling by 10 per cent from 2005 to 2008. There has also been an increase in demand for LoSalt, which has 66 per cent less sodium.

Nutritionalists and healthcare professionals are  angry at claims made on packaging to encourage consumers to pay high prices. “They should not be allowed to get away with it!”

Among the offenders identified by the report was the Cornish Sea Salt Co. It claims to retain “over 60 naturally occurring trace elements and minerals essential for wellbeing”. It typically costs 75p per 100g, compared with just 8p for Saxa table salt. The most expensive salt in the study was fine Himalayan Crystal Salt, with a 1kg bag costing £13.46, or £1.35 per 100g. It claims to be “a salt that’s good for you . . . that even your doctor will like”.

Your GP is much more likely to be happier if you were to invest the money saved by not buying gourmet salt on a good quality blood pressure monitor which you can use regularly at home to keep a record on your blood pressure – one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke.

A nutritionist specialising in studying the effects of salt and health said: “Most of the salt we eat, about 75 per cent, is hidden in food we buy.”

Cornish Sea Salt Co declined to issue a statement but pointed to articles that highlighted the health benefits of unrefined sea salt over table salt.