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Science keeps food tasting salty but with less salt

The research has been undertaken at Washington State University, with a focus on making foods taste salty but containing lower levels of sodium chloride. The focus is with driving healthier eating habits in a way so that food still tastes as people want it. A problem with some ‘reduced salt’ options is that the food does not have the salt taste that some people crave.

Speaking with Laboratory Manager magazine, lead scientist Carolyn Ross explains: “It’s a stealth approach, not like buying the ‘reduced salt’ option, which people generally don’t like. If we can stair-step people down, then we increase health while still making food that people want to eat.”

The salt tasting alternatives were created by mixing other salts with sodium chloride, such as calcium chloride and potassium chloride. These different types of salt have not been associated with any ill-health effects.

Excess salt in the diet, in the form of sodium chloride, is linked with raised blood pressure, which can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Some research also links high-salt intake with cognitive decline.

With the mix of salts, a balance needed to be struck with how much alternative salt was used. This is because too much of the alternative salts led to test panelists complaining of a butter taste, leading to some foods being classed as inedible.

To support human test subjects, the researchers also used a computer program linked to a sensor, which was dubbed an ‘electronic tongue’. Both human and machine systems tasted salt solutions in water and tomato soup containing varying salt combinations.

The ideal combination was found to be 96.4 percent sodium chloride with 1.6 percent potassium chloride and two percent calcium chloride or with 78 percent sodium chloride and 22 percent calcium chloride. Both of these combinations is classed as more healthy than the 100 percent sodium chloride which is typically added to flavor most foodstuffs.

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Food Science, with the research paper titled “Identification of a Salt Blend: Application of the Electronic Tongue, Consumer Evaluation, and Mixture Design Methodology.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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