The study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that individuals who ate foods with up to 41% less salt accepted the reduction and did not compensate during the rest of the day.
Therefore, offering reduced-sodium foods could contribute to daily sodium intake reduction, it said.
The research team compared two treatment groups over three weeks in an experimental real-life canteen setting to investigate the effects of food reformulation on people’s daily salt intake.
“Current levels of sodium intake exceed human physiologic needs in Western populations. High dietary sodium intake leads to the development of high blood pressure and thereby raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and stroke.
“Offering reduced-sodium foods without explicitly informing consumers of the sodium reduction can contribute to daily sodium intake reduction,” wrote senior scientist A.M. Janssen and her team.
In the single-blind randomised controlled trial had 74 participants between 18 and 35 years of age, who were served a lunchtime buffet. While the control group was given food with regular salt levels, almost all the food given to the intervention group had 29% to 61% less sodium.
Remembered food liking, taste intensity, and saltiness were scored similarly for almost all of the reduced-sodium foods compared with the regular foods, the study said.
Janssen wrote that participants who ate food with the reduced salt, did not eat any more or any less, and that they enjoyed most of the foods just as much. This group consumed an average of 2.5 grams less salt than the control group. The participants were not informed about the reduction in salt during the study, it added.
Checking salt levels
The amount of sodium excreted via the urine over 24 hours was measured in both groups to get an indication of how much common salt was consumed during the day. Results found that sodium excretion dropped in line with the low salt levels in the lunch.
“We can therefore conclude that the people who ate the reduced-sodium lunch did not compensate their lower salt intake at other eating times during the day by eating crisps or salty liquorice, for example,” said Dr Anke Janssen at Food and Biobased Research.
“This real-life test environment is unusual because it allows researchers to observe the participants’ choices unnoticed. The realistic setting leads us to conclude that consumers can cope with substantial reductions in salt without spoiling their enjoyment of food,” she added.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
‘Reduced-Sodium Lunches Are Well-Accepted by Uninformed Consumers Over a 3-Week Period and Result in Decreased Daily Dietary Sodium Intakes: A Randomized Controlled Trial’
Authors: A.M. Janssen, et al