Brain doesn’t register salt for 20 seconds: research creating healthier crisps

A study by UK scientists has uncovered a way to make potato crisps with substantially less sodium.

The researchers found that most of the salt in crisps, which is located in the oil they’re cooked in as well as on the surface, is not released into the mouth and therefore not tasted, until about 20 seconds after chewing.

By this time the crisp has most likely been swallowed, so Ian Fisk and Tian Xind from the University of Nottingham believe the key is in controlling this salt burst.

If the salt is not being tasted as the food is consumed, but rather an entire 20 seconds after, a person is consuming unnecessary sodium, which is a leading cause of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

The researchers believe that the discovery could begin a massive health overhaul in the snackfood industry.

‘Given that people chew and swallow in different ways, it is important to control how they chew and swallow to allow us to understand salt release in the mouth,’ Fisk said.

During the research, for the study, published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, he and Xind requested a panel of food testers chew a crisp a designated number of times and then hold it in their mouth for about one minute while they monitored salt levels in the mouth.

At the 20 second mark, a peak in salivary salt levels was identified and the food testers also reported an increase in the salt taste at this point.

Fisk says the salt release is complicated because it is in both the oil and on the surface of the crisps, and when eaten it has to be physically separated from the chewed material, solubilised in saliva and then moved to the salt receptors on the tongue for the brain to register the taste.

Fisk is now working with several food companies in the east midlands of the UK to develop salt reduction strategies.

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