Book signing, Maillard browning kills, soda taxes, salt added at home

My quarterly summary of interesting articles relevant to previous posts include:

Book signing in Vegas!

For those of you planning on attending the Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists in Las Vegas, I encourage you to attend the session on Processed Food: The Good, The Bad and the Science on Monday morning, June 26, from 9:00-10:15. It promises to provide a variety of perspectives on the topic including those of a journalist, a food historian, a medical doctor specializing in obesity, and two food scientists from the industry. BTW, I will be at the meeting signing copies of my book from 2:00-3:00, Tuesday afternoon, June 27, at the Springer booth. I hope you will be able to stop by and see me if you are at IFT that week. Also, Food Technology published a review of In Defense of Processed Food in its April issue.

Is Maillard browning lethal?

As mentioned in an earlier post I found the book The Maillard Reaction Reconsidered to be both stimulating and alarming. Jack Losso, a food chemist from Louisiana State University, contends that the Maillard reaction is a major contributor to inflammation and, as such, a major factor in the development of chronic diseases in Western culture. If Losso is right, then much of what food scientists and chefs have learned over the years is wrong, and we are endangering the lives of the American populace. I remain a skeptic as there seem to be too many missing links in what he purports as a comprehensive theory. He does back his suppositions up, however, with solid scientific references. If reducing sugars are responsible for the decline of Western civilization in the form of the Western Diet, then Losso has provided the best mechanism for the way sugar is killing us. His argument is certainly much more scientifically convincing than that of Gary Taubes in The Case Against Sugar.

Soda taxes

I found nothing in the Philadelphia primary election results this month to suggest that it had any impact on soda taxes. I’m not sure if it will be an issue in the general election to be held in November.

Salt added at home

Finally, there was a highly publicized study on salt and processed foods published recently. It identifies processed foods as the source of more than 70% of the sodium in the American diet1 verifying earlier reports. This one, however, is much better at estimating the contributions of salt from the shaker and in food preparation at home. The study monitors the salt habits of 450 participants who sent in duplicate samples of the food prepared in the home. I commend the authors of the study for their design. I do not see how such a study could be planned better. The sources of sodium found across the board were 71% added outside the home (processed food and restaurants), 14% inherent in the food, 6% added in home prep, 5% by salt shaker and less than 1% from dietary supplements and tap water. Case closed? It would appear so, but I just have difficulty believing the data. I am not accusing the authors of fraud. I just find it hard to believe that so little salt (212mg/day) is added in food prep. I do not question the almost 2500 mg coming daily from outside the home. One teaspoon of salt is the equivalent of 2300 mg of sodium which means that 212 mg of sodium is less than 0.1 teaspoon of salt from home food prep per day.

sodium sandwich

Sodium can add up in a simple meal. Note that all components of the sandwich, with the possible exception of the lettuce, are processed foods and would be considered as added outside the home.

Several of the recipes in The Food Babe Way equal or exceed 212 mg of sodium for a single serving of a single dish as part of single meal. Either I am completely wrong about my contention that more salt is added in the home than we think OR most of the food consumed in the home is from processed products. I found no information provided on the proportion of food consumed by study participants in which the sodium was added outside the home relative to the proportion of food where sodium was added during preparation at home. I would expect that fewer restaurant and processed foods in a person’s diet would lead to decreased sodium consumption in the American public. This study, however, does not give us any information on how much sodium would be present if all the family’s meals were prepared at home. For example, I suspect that most consumers would not consider the turkey sandwich above to be completely made up of processed foods. The critical question becomes “Are restaurant and processed foods much higher in salt than homemade foods or do restaurant and processed foods contribute to high sodium levels because they dominate the diets of Americans?”

Next week: Review of Waste Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders

1 Harnack, L.J., M.E. Cogswell, J.M. Shikany, C.D. Gardner, C. Gillespie, C.M. Loria, X. Zhou, K. Yuan and L.M. Steffen, 2017, Sources of sodium in US adults from 3 geographic regions. Circulation 135:1775-1783. DOI 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.116.024446

Books mentioned (click on  the cover image if you wish to order it from


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