Future efforts in salt reduction rely on the ability to optimise product composition and structure using a combination of already successful methods in order to increase the overall salty perception of foods despite containing lower levels of sodium, according to the new review published in Trends in Food Science & Technology .
Led a Malaysian researchers and scientists from Unilever’s R&D base in the Netherlands the review provides an overview of the different principles for sodium reduction in food products, with specific focus on product structures that optimise the delivery of salt to the taste buds: “Which has gained increasing attention in the past few years.”
“Such designed product structures affect the way salt is released from the product structures or transported to the taste receptors during mastication and may be based on the format or the spatial distribution of the salt, its encapsulation methods or the bulk texture of the product,” explain the reviewers – led by S.M. Goh of Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
“From a technological point of view each of these approaches are highly product dependent,” they noted – adding that, for example, modifying the dissolution rate of salt crystals will only be beneficial for dry product applications.
However, the team argue that these different sodium reduction approaches “will need to be combined carefully to maximize their potential scope and keep their limitations to a minimum.”
“From a scientific angle, future studies in this area should focus on integration of different effects and hypotheses into the same system,” they said. “Furthermore, future studies should be aimed towards quantifying the encompassing relationship between sodium distribution and sodium release from food structures and saltiness perception.”
Sodium is a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function. However the average daily salt consumption in the western world (between 10 and 12 grams) vastly exceeds maximum recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day.
Such high intakes of dietary sodium have been linked to negative health impacts, including the development of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other health problems.
And with 80% of salt intake coming from processed foods, many countries have initiated salt reduction programmes. As a result, the reduction of sodium in foods has garnered much attention in the food industry and policy makers in recent years, noted Goh and his team.
The on-going process of reducing salt levels in foods is, however, a major challenge because in addition to its role as a flavour enhancer and key influence on consumer preference, the food industry has historically added salt to foods to enhance shelf life, modify flavour, improve functionality, and control fermentation.
“Moreover, other sodium salts are added to food products for specific technological reasons, for example, sodium bicarbonate and sodium benzoate are used as a leavening agent and a preservative, respectively,” the reviewers said.
“These other properties of salt or other sodium salts beyond taste and flavour also need to be considered upon sodium reduction.”
Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2012.08.005
“Sodium reduction: Optimizing product composition and structure towards increasing saltiness perception”
Authors: J.L.H.C. Busch, F.Y.S. Yong, S.M. Goh