Salt: A Review of its Role in Food Science and Public Health
Martin G. Wilkinson.
Salt has been used in food preparation since pre-history and is still routinely added in modern food manufacturing processes. Salt may be added at the table or during cooking; however a large amount of dietary salt originates from processed foods (∼60-70% of adult daily dietary salt). Excess salt intake is strongly linked to increases in blood pressure (hypertension) and subsequently pre-disposes individuals to the onset of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a leading cause of death in developed countries. Excess dietary salt intake has also been linked to the development of kidney disease, aggravation of asthma conditions and to the onset of osteoporosis. Results from large numbers of human studies have led to worldwide initiatives being put in place in order to reduce current levels of salt consumption. Hence there is an urgent need to reduce excess dietary salt intake from processed foods in particular. Current daily consumption figures can be as high as ∼10-12g NaCl per day while an intake of 4g salt per day is sufficient. Therefore a target reduction to an intake of 6g per day is the goal for a number of public health agencies worldwide. An incremental reduction in salt content in foods appears to be the best strategy to reduce population blood pressure values. However any reduction in salt content in processed foods must not impact on product safety or sensory quality. In this review various public health aspects of salt intake are considered. Additionally, the technological implications of salt reduction in foods are discussed and the possibilities for replacement of salt by addition of salt replacers, herbs, spices and other food ingredients to maintain product quality are highlighted.
Keywords: Public Health, Food Science, dietary salt, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (CVD), spices, asthma, osteoporosis, herbs
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