Sunday, March 4, 2012


Salt's metamorphosis from an important food ingredient and a source of sodium essential for maintaining health into a detesting villain has happened during the last three decades. Incessant reporting in scientific and other publications about the harmful effect of salt on blood pressure, heart disease and kidney health has even turned the consumer against salt in daily diets. Though the actual nutritional need is no more than 1800 mg a day for a person, the palate demands much more than this for making the food tasty. After all consumption of 2000 kC of food cannot be in the form of bland materials and taste providers like salt make it easy for consuming many foods, which other wise are not palatable. Both national and international agencies are trying to limit salt consumption to no more than 5 gm a day though consumers find it difficult to restrict salt to such low levels. Against such a background efforts by scientists to develop technologies that will reduce salt content significantly in foods without compromising on taste is a welcome initiative. Here is a take on this burning issue. 

"Salt levels in crisps and snacks could be lowered without affecting the taste by altering the release profile of salt, according to a new study conducted by researchers at University of Nottingham, UK. In order to evaluate how salt from potato crisps is released and perceived in the mouth, the research team asked a panel of food testers to chew crisps for a specific number of times and hold in the mouth for a period of 60 seconds. The team evaluated the salt (sodium chloride) level in the mouth by collecting tongue swabs and screening them. It was identified that the salt levels peaked in the mouth 20 seconds after the chewing began, and panelists also reported that they experienced a significant increase in salt during this time, reported  According to researchers, this means that a majority of the crisp is swallowed even before the salt taste is experienced by the individual. The researchers are planning to develop a series of technologies to accelerate the delivery of the salt to the tongue. The new technologies will lower the salt release time to within 20 seconds, during which the crisps are usually chewed and swallowed, and hence, lower levels of salt would be required to get the same amount of taste. This idea could enable food manufacturers to produce healthier crisps with low salt levels and same taste profile, and the research could be extended to other areas of food science to achieve salt reduction in all snack foods."

There is another side to the salt story which does not subscribe to the majority view that salt is dangerous and feels that salt cannot do any harm at the level being consumed to day. It is true that for those who are affected by kidney disorders or high blood pressure need to be careful in salt consumption but for a normally healthy person is there any need to cut own on salt?. For centuries human beings have been eating salt and there have not been any large scale health disorders due to this. Probably salt alone cannot be blamed for the present day afflictions and drastic changes in the diet laying more emphasis on taste and flavor rather than nutritionally balancing it, may be the real cause for the present trend. Any how if scientists eventually succeed in developing low salt products without the consumer feeling about it when consumed, the effort is "worth the salt" for the health of most of the human beings.  


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