Japanese researchers develop a prototype electric fork that uses an electric current to stimulate the sense of salt on the tongue. Roselle Chen reports.
Many people need to cut down on the amount of salt in their diet. But if you had this fork you wouldn't need to fork over the flavor. Japanese scientists developed this prototype electric fork that conveys the sensation of salt on the tongue via the food, but without the health drawbacks associated with too much sodium. Researcher Hiromi Nakamura said she spent the last six years looking for a way to create taste using electrical currents. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) HIROMI NAKAMURA, RESEARCHER AT REKIMOTO LAB, INTERFACULTY INITIATIVE IN INFORMATION STUDIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, SAYING: "We don't want any actual salt content, but do want the taste of salt. In order to get that taste, it is necessary to artificially create the various tastes salt provides. By using this, one can experience the taste of salt, all without salt itself. All this research started in 2010. I was really eating bit by bit by using electricity to change the flavor, so it's been quite a long trip." The team in Japan believes their fork is the first commercially viable device for tricking taste buds. And a diner who gave it a try was amazed by the results. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) SHOU TANJI, ASAHI NEWSPAPER ONLINE JOURNALIST, SAYING: "I was so surprised by how much the taste changed. Before you press the button, it really tastes like it doesn't have enough salt in the pork cutlets and then it changes. So having that happen, I felt it's really possible to enjoy the meal." Although we do need some salt in our diet, too much is linked to various health problems including increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Past research indicates the average American regularly consumes over the daily amount of salt recommended by the U.S. government. The rechargeable fork will be showcased for the general public in the coming months, ahead of a decision on whether to commercialize it. It remains to be seen whether diners will have an appetite for such a device, but the makers are hopeful their fork could one day be the flavor of the month.