Researchers from the Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan have developed a pair of chopsticks that can artificially enhance salty tastes through electrical pulses.
Created by professor Homei Miyashita together with food and beverage company Kirin, the utensils aim to help those who need to reduce sodium in their diets.
To work, the user wears a wristband, which has a mini computer in it. The device has a wire that connects to one of the chopsticks, and as the person eats, the utensils deliver a weak electrical current to transmit sodium ions from food, thus elevating the saltiness profile.
While developing the device, researchers gathered 46 people between the ages of 40 and 65 to try the chopstick device. Their study, which had people eat low-sodium food, found that the dish's saltiness was enhanced by 1.5 times when the electrical stimulation was applied.
"This suggests that when food with 30 percent less salt is consumed, a device equipped with this technology can provide a salty taste equivalent to that of a regular meal," the Kirin announcement said.
Miyashita previously went viral for inventing a lickable TV screen that can mimic food flavors like chocolate.
Tamping down excess salt
The novel invention is relevant in Japan where an average adult consumes about 10 grams of salt per day—double the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.
Traditionally, Japanese cuisine is quite high in salt, with the use of condiments like soy sauce and miso. Too much sodium could result in complications such as high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, enlarged heart muscle, and more.
To battle excess sodium intake, the Japanese government recommended that daily salt intake be lowered to 7.5 grams for men and 6.5 grams for women.
"If we try to avoid taking less salt in a conventional way, we need to endure the pain of cutting our favorite food from our diet or endure eating bland food," Kirin researcher Ai Sato said.
According to Reuters, Miyashita and Kirin are refining the chopsticks prototype with the hopes of selling them commercially next year.