Are your meals basically a big heaping bowl of salt? Electric chopsticks might be the answer to reducing your salt intake while retaining all the delicious savory flavor.
These futuristic utensils are powered by a wristband-mounted computer, producing an electrical current that is too weak to affect the human body but is apparently enough to blast you to flavortown.
They were developed in a collaboration between researchers from Meiji University, Japan, and food and beverage company Kirin. The research is detailed in a press release published by the two, and was presented on March 2 at the 26th Information Processing Society of Japan symposium, according to this release.
Researchers recruited 36 people currently trying to cut down on salt or who had previously done so. They were then fed a gel, with one sample containing 0.80 percent salt and the other with 30 percent less at 0.56 percent salt.
Participants correctly reported the less salty gel to taste, well, less salty. However, when eaten with the electric chopsticks, the 0.56 percent salt gel was perceived as 1.5 times (or 50 percent) saltier than it actually was, actually exceeding the 0.8 percent salt gel.
People also reported an “improvement in richness, sweetness, and overall tastiness” in reduced-salt miso soup eaten with the device, although there is no currently published data on this particular experiment.
The device works by applying an “electrical stimulation waveform” to the chopsticks. The diagram above indicates that this is achieved via cathodal and anodal stimulation. Anodes and cathodes are electrodes, with anodes releasing negatively-charged electrons and cathodes taking them in.
The chopsticks work on sodium chloride, aka table salt; and sodium glutamate, aka the undeservedly controversial taste enhancer MSG.
In a solution of sodium chloride and water, negatively charged hydroxide and chloride ions are attracted to the positive electrode, whereas positively charged hydrogen and sodium ions are attracted to the negative electrode.
There is not much information on how exactly the chopsticks work, but device developer Dr Homei Miyashita explains in a video by the Guardian that the chopsticks use electricity “to float and suck the sodium ions in the food that you are eating.”
Reducing salt intake to less than 5 grams (0.18 ounces) a day can lower blood pressure and reduce risk of stroke, coronary heart attack, and cardiovascular disease, and reducing salt intake to recommended levels could prevent around 2.5 million deaths a year according to the World Health Organization.
"If we try to avoid taking 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," Kirin researcher Ai Sato told Reuters.
The chopsticks are hoped to reach consumers next year, and hopefully will allow salt-lovers everywhere to enjoy the best of both worlds.