Salt adds flavor to food and yet too much of it is bad for health and may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, among other things. The key is, well, moderation but for people who can’t consume salt at all, there’s the Electro Fork that uses electric shock to simulate salty taste when eating. That was from 2016.
Fast forward to today, beverage producer Kirin Holdings and Meiji University, the academic institution behind the lickable screen, have come up with the chopsticks version. The principle is very much the same as Electro Fork and that is to deliver a weak electric current to the food to simulate the salty flavor.
Though it is not clear if it is adjustable like the fork version by Tokyo University which lets users switch between salty, sour, and oddly, metallic tastes.
The trick was finding just the right electrical waveform that affects the ions such as sodium chloride that are responsible for salty tastes so that the saltiness they produce is enhanced. As an added bonus, this current also affects the ions in monosodium glutamate, which is responsible for the umami flavor of foods like miso soup.
Long story short, the research team had test subjects taste a gel with a 30 percent reduction, and the test subjects confirmed that it (the gel) indeed is less salty. After that, the same reduced salt gel was served to the test subjects but this time using the electrified chopsticks. And the result? The test subjects observed that there was an elevated saltiness.
As you have read, this is essentially the Electro Fork in chopsticks form. But unlike the electrified fork that has the power pack contained within its handle, albeit a rather chunky one, the electrified chopstick – if ever created for real-world use – will have a cable running from the active chopstick to a power pack worn on the wrist. There appears to have another proposition that has one of the chopsticks looking like a beluga whale:
If you read Japanese, you may find out more by poring over the research paper published in the Japanese language on this development posted on research.miyashita.com.
Images: Meiji University [JP].