Electric chopsticks: The saline solution to high-salt diets

Salt can be replaced in food — using electric chopsticks.

Japanese researchers have developed computerised chopsticks that enhance salty tastes, potentially helping those who need to reduce sodium in their diets.

Co-developed by Meiji University professor Homei Miyashita and food and drinks company Kirin, 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 Prof Miyashita.

‘As a result, the salty taste enhances 1.5 times,’ he added.

Miyashita and his laboratory have explored various ways that technology can interact with and stimulate human sensory experiences. They have also developed a lickable TV screen that can imitate food flavours.

The taste-enhancing chopsticks may have particular relevance in Japan, where the traditional diet favours salty tastes, with high levels of soy sauce and miso.

The average Japanese adult consumes about 10g of salt per day, double the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.

High salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure, which is the single biggest cause of heart attacks and strokes.

‘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 favourite food from our diet, or endure eating bland food.’

The team will refine the prototype and hope to make the chopsticks available to consumers next year.

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