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Big cuts in sodium possible with only tiny liking drop: Study

By Nathan Gray , 16-Dec-2010

Reductions of up to 50 per cent sodium content in food may be achievable with only minor decrease in liking and no effect on consumption of the food, according to new research.

The study, published in Journal of Food Science, suggests that an individual’s salt taste sensitivity has no association with the liking or consumption of salty, or reduced salt, foods. The research, performed by the Sensory Science Group at Deakin University, Australia, using hash browns with varying salt intensity did however suggest that the environment and context in which testing is done may have an important influence on findings.

The authors noted that a positive association between salt intensity was found in a controlled laboratory setting, but was not observed in a modified environment that mimicked a more natural eating setting.

Salt reduction

Processed foods provide approximately 80 per cent of dietary sodium. People consuming westernised diets take in concentrations of sodium well in excess of recommended intakes, which according to Lisa Lucas and colleagues at Deakin University: “is presumably driven by our liking of higher sodium concentrations.”

Excessive intake of dietary sodium has been strongly linked to hypertension, a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. The authors said that there is also evidence suggesting that excess sodium intake is linked to gastric cancer, decreased bone density, and higher rates of obesity.

Because the majority of sodium intake is via processed foods, many believe the most effective strategy to reduce sodium intake is to reduce the levels of sodium contained in processed foods.

The new study aimed to determine if there is an association between salt taste sensitivity, perceived saltiness intensity, and the liking of a food, with varying concentrations of sodium.

Study details

The researchers reported no overall association between dietary sodium intake, liking of hash browns, and hash brown intake.

Under laboratory conditions the researchers reported no significant relationship between salt recognition and liking or perceived saltiness intensity.

The researchers said that hash browns containing higher levels of salt were more liked than hash browns containing much lower salt levels, but added that there was no statistical difference in liking between mid range salt levels (between 120 mg of salt per 100 g to 170 mg of salt per 100 g).

When the same tests were performed in a non-laboratory, natural eating environment, Lucas and co- workers did not find any association between salt taste recognition thresholds, liking, perceived intensity, or sodium intake.

In the dining room environment, they reported that large decreases (of more than 50 per cent) of sodium content in food were achievable with only minor decrease in liking, and no effect on consumption of the food.

They said that intake and liking of hash browns as part of a meal were not significantly affected, even when the sodium concentration was reduced by 80 per cent.

The researcher noted that it may be possible that had the sodium levels of the whole meal varied, rather than just one part, different results may have been obtained.

“This raises an interesting issue; product testing is usually conducted with only single food items, not in a meal context. However, food items such as hash browns and many other processed foods are consumed as part of a meal,” said Lucas and colleagues.

They added that as the food industry prepares to meet probable mandatory limits for sodium in foods, their results suggest that significant sodium reductions can be achieved without influencing food intakes; however they said that manufacturers may need to accept minor reductions in consumer liking as a result.

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01939.x
“The Influence of Sodium on Liking and Consumption of Salty Food”
Authors: L. Lucas, L. Riddell, G. Liem, S. Whitelock, R. Keast

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