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Innovative new utensils make foods healthier by mimicking taste

A weak electrical current transmits sodium ions from the food through the chopsticks, creating the taste of salt.

Chopsticks in action, food awaits. Image by Tim Sandle.
Chopsticks in action, food awaits. Image by Tim Sandle.

Japan is perhaps the cornucopia of exciting technology, including in the area of food and cooking. In 2021, for example, researchers at Meiji University in Tokyo created a “lickable” television screen. This is something for those who wish to tantalise their senses and taste their entertainment.

The same researchers have partnered with drinks manufacturer Kirin to develop and enhance the flavour of foods without adding extra (potentially unhealthy) seasoning. This means saying goodbye to wooden chopsticks.

ABGI, an innovation management adviser that helps businesses apply for R&D tax credits, has explored the technology behind these chopsticks and its potential to impact the world, and outlined the potential benefits to Digital Journal.

How do taste-altering chopsticks work?

Developed by the same technological geniuses at Meiji University, these taste-altering chopsticks stimulate the tastebuds.

The electric chopsticks are wired to a device that a person wears on their wrist. While they are eating, a weak electrical current transmits sodium ions from the food through the chopsticks, creating the taste of salt. The weak electricity is used to adjust the function of ions such as sodium chloride and sodium glutamate to change the perception of taste, thus making food taste stronger or weaker.

In order to test the reliability of the devices, people who consistently follow a low-sodium diet took part in a trial where they ate reduced-salt miso soup. And the majority of the participants found that the chopsticks made the salty taste 1.5 times stronger.

What impact will this gadget have?

With Japanese cuisine, many of the country’s foods are rich in salt. The average daily sodium intake 10.9 grams for men and 9.3 grams for women in Japan. That is 3.5 grams and 2.8 grams higher than daily recommendations.

Ai Sato, a researcher at Kirin, explains: “We need to reduce the amount of salt we take, [but to avoid eating] 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.” 

Inventing a gadget that imitates the taste of salt has the potential to positively impact the lives of countless people around Japan. In time, it could work towards reducing salt consumption without compromising on taste.

What comes next for taste-altering technology?

The idea of taste-altering technology is continuing to make waves across the globe. Air Up, for example, has developed water bottles and capsules that imitate various flavours.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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