Japanese researchers develop electric chopsticks to increase saltiness

TOKYO – Japanese researchers have developed computerized chopsticks that increase saltiness, potentially helping people who need to reduce sodium in their diets.

Co-developed by Meiji University professor Homei Miyashita and beverage maker Kirin Holdings Co.

The device uses a weak electrical current to transfer sodium ions from food, through chopsticks, to the mouth where they create a salty sensation, Miyashita said.

“The result is a 1.5-fold increase in saltiness,” he said.

Miyashita and his lab have explored the various ways in which technology can interact and stimulate human sensory experiences. He has also developed a lickable TV screen that can mimic different food tastes.

Taste-enhancing chopsticks may be of particular relevance in Japan, where the traditional diet favors saltiness. The average Japanese adult consumes about 10g of salt per day, twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.

Excess sodium intake has been linked to increased rates of high blood pressure, stroke, and other diseases.

“To prevent these diseases, we need to reduce our salt intake,” said Kirin researcher Ai Sato.

“If we try to avoid eating less salt in the usual way, we’ll end up with the pain of cutting our favorite foods from our diet, or putting up with eating bland foods.”

Miyashita and Kirin are working on prototypes of their chopsticks and hope to commercialize them early next year.

(Reporting by Rikako Murayama, Akiko Okamoto and Rocky Swift; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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