Researchers in Japan develop electric chopsticks to enhance salty taste in foods

Japanese researchers have developed computerized 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 beverage maker Kirin Holdings Co., 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 Miyashita.

“As a result, the salty taste enhances 1.5 times,” he said.

Researchers claim the chopsticks can help enhance the perception of how salty food tastes by 1.5 times.

Researchers claim the chopsticks can help enhance the perception of how salty food tastes by 1.5 times. Credit: ISSEI KATO/REUTERS

Miyashita and his lab have explored various ways that technology can interact with and stimulate human sensory experiences. He’s also developed a lickable TV screen that can imitate various food flavors.

The taste-enhancing chopsticks may have particular relevance in Japan, where the traditional diet favors salty tastes. The average Japanese adult consumes about 10 grams of salt per day, double the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.

Excess sodium intake is related to increased incidence of high blood pressure, strokes and other ailments.

An employee of Kirin Holdings demonstrates chopsticks that can enhance food taste using an electrical stimulation waveform that was jointly developed by the company and Meiji University's School of Science and Technology Professor Homei Miyashita, in Tokyo, Japan.

An employee of Kirin Holdings demonstrates chopsticks that can enhance food taste using an electrical stimulation waveform that was jointly developed by the company and Meiji University’s School of Science and Technology Professor Homei Miyashita, in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Kirin Holdings

“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 favorite food from our diet, or endure eating bland food.”

Miyashita and Kirin are refining their chopsticks prototype and hope to commercialize them as early as next year.

Top image caption: An employee of Kirin Holdings demonstrates chopsticks that can enhance food taste using an electrical stimulation waveform in Tokyo, Japan on April 15, 2022. Reuters/Issei Kato

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.