Bizarre Science: Umami Utensils–chopsticks that make your food saltier

Hoping to hit the market next year is a new device capable of making your diet healthier: chopsticks that make food taste salty. The electric chopsticks have been developed through a collaboration between Homei Miyashita, a professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, and Kirin, a food and drinks manufacturer. 

The device includes a wristband computer producing a weak electric current containing the designed electrical stimulation waveform. The current travels through the chopsticks to move sodium ions from the food into the mouth, artificially creating the taste of salt. 

The device was tested on people currently or previously following low sodium diets. Using the chopsticks, the perceived saltiness was enhanced about 1.5 times in food with 30% less salt, bringing it to the level of normal food. Participants also reported the taste of food improved when eaten with the electric current. 

Increased salt intake is a widespread health problem as it increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It is a particular problem in Japan where the daily salt intake is around twice the World Health Organisation’s recommendations, partly due to the prevalence of miso and soy sauce. This intake needs to decrease but many resist the change as they believe it makes food bland. The team hope the chopsticks will help to overcome this and perhaps similar utensils could spread to a wider market.

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Becky Sainty

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June 2022
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