Salt (sodium chloride) plays a major role in perception of flavor in food products. Though reducing sodium content in processed food could significantly improve the health level of the population, the detrimental change in flavor presents a major challenge as consumers generally find low salt products unacceptable. Therefore, technological solutions are being sought to lower the salt content of processed foods without altering their taste. In order to better understand saltiness perception in thickened products such as soups and sauces, this study was designed to evaluate the possibility of enhancing saltiness perception through use of hyperosmotic solutions containing high polymer concentration (up to 30%). Saltiness and sweetness perception were investigated in Newtonian solutions of identical viscosity thickened with different concentrations of dextran, which was achieved by using dextrans of different molecular weights. Attribute difference tests (paired comparisons and multiple paired comparisons) were performed by untrained subjects. A significant enhancement of saltiness, but not of sweetness, was found in hyperosmotic solutions (higher polymer concentration) compared to solutions of lower osmolality (lower polymer concentration). The present results may be considered as a human study validation of an in vitro demonstrated effect of osmolality on the response of taste receptor cells to NaCl and suggests that high concentrations of low molecular weight thickeners could be used to enhance saltiness perception in low salt products.
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This research was part of a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board’s Collaborative Research and Development program (TP/6/DAM/6/S/K3004C).
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