Japanese food company Kirin has teamed up with researchers from Meiji University and Yoshinori Miyashita Laboratory of the Department of Advanced Media Science to develop electric chopsticks that can artificially stimulate the taste of salt in food.
The device, which works by sending a mild electric current directly into the food, enables users to taste saltiness in dishes that are low in sodium.
The researchers first figured out the exact electrical waveform that affects the ions that make food taste salty. By applying electrical currents, the device not only enhances the saltiness of the dish but also triggers the ions in its monosodium glutamate (MSG) content, improving its umami flavor.
In their experiments, the scientists had participants consume a gel with a set salt content and then rate how salty it tasted. The subjects then consumed a gel with the salt content reduced by 30%, which they then rated accurately in their test scores of perceived saltiness.
The final test involved subjects eating the same reduced salt content gel using the electric chopsticks.
There was a 50% increase in participants’ perceived saltiness scores, showing that the reduced salt content gel was thought to be saltier than the first batch.
Further tests that involved feeding subjects a low-salt miso soup yielded similar promising results. In addition to enhancing the saltiness of the food, the electric chopsticks also improved the soup’s umami and overall flavor.
In its press release, researchers touted the possible health benefits of the technology as it allows people to enjoy low-salt dishes while still experiencing the taste of higher sodium content.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), high sodium consumption and insufficient potassium intake contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lowering salt intake to just less than 5 grams per day for adults will already help reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack.
Many Japanese social media users expressed amazement at the technology — though few also expressed doubt as to whether it would really make a difference in making people eat healthier.
Feature Image via 日テレNEWS
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