Research Gaps

Increasing knowledge and understanding through research in the areas mentioned below and technological advances could enhance the ability of food scientists and technologists to reduce sodium content in food to help improve public health. These research gaps and other needs were identified by IFT in comments to FDA on its Voluntary Sodium Reduction Guidance for Industry. Nov. 2016.

Understanding the role of salt taste receptor(s) and taste development and preference, through new or additional research into:

  • Salt taste receptor(s), mechanism of salty perception, and how to stimulate and/or block receptors
  • Why humans tend to acquire a high preference for salty taste
  • why children tend to have a higher preference for salt than adults, how early experiences shape sensory responses, and how these can be modified

Developing innovative technologies to reduce sodium levels while maintaining attributes, such as safety, shelf-life, palatability, and physical properties, through new or additional research into:

  • Understanding the mechanism of how salt masks bitterness, and identifying other compounds that can do the same
  • Foods and compounds with umami properties that can replace sodium without impacting flavor
  • Identifying foods and levels for different foods in which potassium could be added without imparting bitterness
  • Technology-based solutions (e.g., nonthermal high pressure technologies)
  • Technologies through which the location of sodium in foods can be changed to allow it to be released in the mouth and available to the taste buds before swallowing  
  • Better understanding of how sodium interacts with other food ingredients, such as fat and spices, to provide a desirable eating experience
  • Understanding the association between the functional roles of sodium on food structure and desired sensory outcomes
  • Identification of new salt substitutes and their potential uses in various foods
  • Sodium reduction solutions that can provide salty tastes similar to sodium chloride, and which can be label friendly 
  • Technologies that provide the same characteristics as sodium, such as texture and leavening in bakery products, without imparting off-flavors; binding of meat proteins; and retarding spoilage of refrigerated (e.g., deli meats) and non-refrigerated products (e.g., dips) without negatively affecting flavor profiles
  • Technologies to modify the microstructure of foods to help release sodium during mastication
  • Technologies to isolate natural aromatic molecules that may allow formulations with less salt, sugar, or fat content without sacrificing taste, aroma, or texture  

Understanding consumer behavior and dietary intake, through:

  • Enhancing our understanding of the benefits of reducing sodium intake in children
  • Addressing the controversy regarding the health risk associated with low sodium intake
  • Understanding how salty taste preferences and behaviors develop and might be modified 
  • Enhancing our understanding of the impact of reduced-sodium packaged foods on dietary sodium intake
  • Increasing our understanding of the extent that sodium plays a role among other factors in influencing consumer choices and behavior
  • Understanding the level(s) at which consumers with varying taste sensitivities can detect changes in sodium content
  • Understanding factors such as genetics and culture that may influence preferences for reduced-sodium foods
  • Monitoring and updating food consumption databases to accurately reflect changes in sodium content in the food supply and consumption
  • Understanding whether gradual reduction of sodium across the board, if the FDA guidance were implemented, would actually reduce sodium intake or consumers simply would alter food selection or add salt at the table to satisfy their sodium appetite and maintain baseline intake levels