Reducing the salt content of low-fat cheese has a greater impact on the flavour than similar reductions from high fat cheese, suggests new research from France.
Writing in the journal Food Chemistry, scientists from the National Institute of Agronomical Research (INRA) report that salty perception was not influenced by the texture of the cheese, but variations in the fat content did affect sensory aspects of the product.
"This study is further evidence of the influence of composition (NaCl, fat and dry matter contents) on the sensory and physicochemical properties of complex dairy matrices," wrote the authors, led by Anne Saint-Eve.
"Salt reduction had an impact on aroma release, particularly for low-fat model cheeses, and olfactory perception modified texture perception but only for model cheeses with low-fat and low-dry matter contents.
"Variations in salt content and sensory interactions therefore seem to have a greater impact on products with low fat content than on those with high-fat content," they added
The salt drive
Numerous scientists are convinced that high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high.
The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK's food standards agency (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target than the ideal healthy limit recommended by WHO/FAO.
Cheese is often cited as one of the main sources of salt in the diet, and the French researchers sought to understand how best to reduce salt content in food without altering flavour perception.
Five cheeses were formulated with different dry matter, fat content, and salt content. The formulations, as tested by a panel of 10 people, showed that fat played a major role in the release of aroma and the olfactory perception, while the perception of saltiness was not affected by the texture of the cheeses.
"Furthermore, olfactory perception modified texture perception but only for model cheeses with low fat and low-dry matter contents," wrote Saint-Eve and her co-workers.
"Variations in salt content and sensory interactions therefore seem to have a greater impact on products with low fat content than on those with high-fat content," they concluded.
Source: Food Chemistry
Volume 116, Issue 1, Pages 167-175
"Reducing salt and fat content: Impact of composition, texture and cognitive interactions on the perception of flavoured model cheeses"
Authors: A. Saint-Eve, C. Lauverjat, C. Magnan, I. Deleris, I. Souchon