Friday, August 27, 2010


Salt is often called the white poison though some reserve this epithet for sugar. Either way both are implicated in many health disorders that confront humanity to day. Though estimates vary regarding the safe level of daily consumption of salt, an intake of 6 gm per day is considered safe. But the ground realities are totally different with consumption far beyond 10 gm a day in many countries. Though consumers have to exercise control at home regarding use of salt in home cooked foods, too much emphasis is being put on forcing the food industry to reduce salt levels in snacks, savories and other processed foods to bring about significant decline in salt consumption. Probably industry may be able to innovate to evolve products with the lowest salt concentration possible but educating the consumer regarding the dangers of too much salt in the diet will be a herculean task and may take long time.

'Given our addiction to salt, you'd think food scientists would be hard at work trying to come up with more healthful alternatives. And you'd be right. A roundup of the latest research is presented in the August issue of Nature Medicine, which went online on Thursday. It turns out there are several strategies for delivering salty flavor without the standard combination of sodium and chloride, better known as NaCl. Among them: wrapping salt particles in a special coating so that they release their flavor over time instead of all at once, like extended-release painkillers; by releasing their flavor payload slowly, scientists hope that a smaller amount of salt can go a longer way; finding a way to boost the saltiness of sodium so that less is needed; coolants— which are currently used in sodas and chewing gum to make the mucous membranes feel cold— can make foods taste just as salty with 20% to 30% less salt; looking for proteins that boost the sensitivity of taste receptors on the tongue that recognize salty flavors; one biotech company says it has found 250 such proteins so far; searching naturally salty tasting substances that contain less sodium; one promising compound comes from seaweed, though in some recipes it produces a fishy taste; salt substitutes made with potassium chloride do a fair job of mimicking sodium chloride. but they can taste metallic or bitter".

Whatever progress the research efforts may make, living in a world with less salt is becoming inevitable. Sooner man adjusts to this reality better it will be for the survival of Homo Sapiens in this planet. One disturbing question that continues to linger in the mind of the consumer is whether salt is really bad considering that two or three generations ago salt "danger" was not known at all and how come it is getting focused only now? Is the bad effect of salt is over emphasized? Do the scientists know every thing that is to be known about other variables in the diet which can "precipitate" the salt effect? Under the present knowledge state, consumer may be well advised to be on a "caution" mode to day rather than face any adverse contingency tomorrow.


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