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Sea salt not a viable sodium reduction strategy: New data

By Stephen Daniells , 18-Oct-2012
Last updated the 18-Oct-2012 at 16:53 GMT

Using sea salt as a means of reducing sodium in food products is not viable since it contains the same sodium content as a Kosher salt, says a new study.

The new study, published in Food Research International , characterized seven varieties of sea salt and a Kosher control. Results showed that salts contained either “the same or less sodium than the Kosher salt”.

“This investigation revealed that only small differences in sodium content are seen among samples and when controlled for sodium content resulted in marginal differences in salt taste intensity,” wrote researchers from the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph in Canada.

“This indicates that use of any of the sea salts studied is not likely a viable sodium-reduction strategy.”

Confusion

Many shoppers are said to be still laboring under the misconception that sea salt contains less sodium than table salt. This was evidenced by a survey by the American Heart Association revealing that 61% of US consumers agreed that sea salt represented a “low-sodium alternative" to table salt (which is mined from underground salt deposits, processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains anti-caking agents).

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, vastly exceeds recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day to control blood pressure levels and reduce hypertension prevalence and related health risks in populations.

A perception amongst consumers is that sea salt is somehow better than table salt, based on the presence of additional minerals in sea salt such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, as well as bromide, and bicarbonate.

Despite industry statements that sea salt contains the same levels of sodium as table salt, the Guelph researchers note that “little appears in the literature investigating the role that salt-crystal properties contribute to salt taste”.

The new data indicated that three of the sea salt samples tested had similar sodium levels as the Kosher control, while True Kona (Hawaii, USA) contained 16.75% less sodium than Kosher salt.

However, there were not many differences in maximum salt taste intensity, said the researchers.

“Based on the fact that salts did not show large differences is taste intensity and many of the salts did not contain less sodium than the Kosher control, using the studied sea salts as a sodium-reduction strategy is not viable,” they concluded.

Source: Food Research International
Volume 45, Issue 1, Pages 415-421
“Physical and sensory properties of regional sea salts”
Authors: D. Vella, M. Marcone, L.M. Duizer

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