Saline Solution: Japan Invents ‘Electric’ Chopsticks That Make Food Saltier | Japan
Diners in Japan may soon be able to savor the umami a bowl of ramen or miso soup without having to worry about their salt intake.
In what they claim to be a world first, researchers have developed chopsticks that artificially create the taste of salt, as part of efforts to reduce sodium levels in some of the country’s most popular dishes.
The chopsticks work by using electrical stimulation and a mini-computer worn on the eater’s wristband.
The device transmits sodium ions from food, through the chopsticks, to the mouth where they create a salty sensation, according to Homei Miyashita, a professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, whose lab has collaborated with the food maker. and Kirin drinks to develop the device. .
The team said they will refine the prototype and hope to make the wands available to consumers next year.
The utensils could find a receptive audience in Japan, where the traditional diet tends to be high in salt due to the use of ingredients such as miso and soy sauce.
The average Japanese adult consumes around 10 grams of salt per day, which is twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization. The Ministry of Health has proposed reducing daily salt intake to a maximum of 7.5 grams for men and 6.5 grams for women.
The chopsticks use “very weak electricity – not enough to affect the human body – to adjust the function of ions such as sodium chloride and sodium glutamate to alter the perception of taste by making food appear to have a stronger or weaker taste,” Kirin said in a statement.
Miyashita and Kirin said clinical tests on people on low-sodium diets confirmed that the device increased the salty taste of low-sodium foods by about 1.5 times. They said participants given reduced-salt miso soup commented on the improvement in the “richness, sweetness and overall taste” of the dish.
High salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes.
“To prevent these diseases, we need to reduce the amount of salt we consume,” said Kirin researcher Ai Sato. “If we try to avoid taking less salt in the conventional way, we would need to endure the pain of cutting our favorite food from our diet or eating bland foods.”
Miyashita’s lab explores other ways to use technology to awaken the senses. He also invented a lickable television screen that mimics the flavors of various foods.