Image Source: The guardian

Japanese researchers have developed computerised chopsticks that enhance salty tastes. The following can potentially help those who need to reduce sodium in their diets.

Electric chopsticks are a joint initiative by researchers from the Yoshinori Miyashita Laboratory of the Department of Advanced Media Science, Meiji University, and a Japanese food producer called Kirin (mostly known for its beer).

The chopsticks were created as part of an effort by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to reduce the daily salt intake of the Japanese people. Which, on average, is actually considerably higher than the recommendations of the World Health Organization.

How Does It Work? 

The chopsticks enhance tastes using electrical stimulation and a mini-computer worn on a wristband. The device uses a weak electrical current to transmit sodium ions from food. Through the chopsticks, to the mouth where they create a sense of saltiness, said Miyashita.

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In a recent trial, the added electrical stimulation was found to increase the salty flavor of a given food by almost 1.5 times. When eating something made with a 30% reduction in salt, the difference in flavor would be imperceptible to the user. Anyone who’s ever licked the contacts on a 9-volt battery will agree that deliberately shocking the tongue seems like a bad idea. However, the level of electrical current used here is undetectable, and the idea has a lot of precedents.

Electric Chopsticks
Image source:

The taste-enhancing chopsticks may have particular relevance in Japan, where the traditional diet favors salty tastes. The average Japanese adult consumes about 10 grams of salt per day.

Meanwhile, excess sodium intake is related to increased incidence of high blood pressure, strokes, and other ailments.

“To prevent these diseases, we need to reduce the amount of salt we take,” said Kirin researcher Ai Sato.

“If we try to avoid taking less salt in a conventional way, we would need to endure the pain of cutting our favorite food from our diet, or endure eating bland food.”

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