Emerging Technologies

Less salt, more taste. Here's how electronic chopsticks can improve our health

Chopsticks on a table with salt and other condiments.

Could the traditional chopstick be replaced by computerized ones? Image: Unsplash/varun tandon

Rikako Murayama
Reporter, Reuters
Akiko Okamoto
Senior Video Journalist, Reuters
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Emerging Technologies

  • Japanese researchers have co-developed computerized chopsticks that enhance salty tastes through electrical stimulation.
  • The invention could help those who need to reduce sodium in their diets, says Reuters.
  • The average Japanese adult consumes about 10 grams of salt per day, double the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.
  • Excessive sodium intake can increase the chance of high blood pressure or strokes.

Japanese researchers have developed computerised 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. (2503.T), 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.

Computerised chopsticks.
The chopsticks enhance tastes using electrical stimulation and a mini-computer worn on a wristband. Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato

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

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 flavours.

Computerised chopsticks with bowl of soup.
The salt taste is enhanced 1.5 times using computerized chopsticks, researchers say. Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato

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

Main holding computerised chopsticks.
The computerized chopsticks are currently prototypes, but may be commercialized next year. Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato

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

"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 favourite food from our diet, or endure eating bland food."

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

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Emerging TechnologiesGlobal Health
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