Last week, an article caught peoples’ attention - a Chinese girl in Seattle had to return to China in a wheelchair because of side effects of laughing gas. Laughing gas, also called hippy crack or sweet air, could get you euphoric high, which made it the second most popular drug after weeds among party lovers.
Laughing gas, in a technical term, is called nitrous oxide (N2O). It is colorless and odorless gas often used in dental surgery as inhalable anesthesia and painkiller for decades. Although sounds weird, it could be used as a propellant and foaming agent of aerosol type whipped cream, cooking sprays and so on. The index is E942 as a food additive.
Although nitrous oxide has low level of toxicity, direct, heavy and long-term use can be really dangerous and even fatal. Heavy does causes vitamin deficiency and anaemia as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency. Lacking vitamin B12 may cause dangerous and irreversible damage to nerve and spinal cord, which control the flexibility and sensibility of limbs.
Nitrous oxide could dissolve in fatty compounds easily, which made it an excellent ingredient in whipped cream that contains a lot of fat. As a foaming agent, it gives four times volume of the liquid while squeezed from the cream triggers. It also has higher foaming stability than CO2.
It is inert displacement of any oxygen and could inhibit the growth of bacteria, therefore it could provide a good shelf life to cream and puffed food.
In addition, whipped cream with added N2O tastes similar to air whipped cream, while the CO2 added whipped cream tastes slightly sour and firm, stimulus to tongue. However, N2O containing whipped cream is not the best fit for food which cannot be served within 30 to 60 minutes, as the N2O is not stable after the contact with oxygen.
Nitrous oxide is safe to used in cream products and approved and used widely in Europe, USA and many Asian countries.
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