Electric Chopsticks Bring The Salt, Not The Pain

The Japanese people love their salt, perhaps as much as Americans love their sugar high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. But none of these are particularly good for you. Although humans do need some salt in their diets to continue existing, the average Japanese person may be eating too much of it on a regular basis — twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, according to Reuters. Cue the invention of electric chopsticks, which provide salty flavor without the actual sodium.

No, you won’t get shocked — not even a fresh 9 V to the tongue’s worth. The tips of the chopsticks are made of something food-safe and conductive, and one is wired to a bracelet that contains a small computer. Using a weak current, the chopsticks transmit sodium ions from the food to the tongue, which increases the perceived saltiness by 1.5x. The device was co-created by a Meiji University professor and a Japanese beverage maker, who hope to commercialize it sometime next year.

This isn’t the first time humans have used trickery when it comes to diets. The older among you may remember the miracle berry weight loss craze of the 1970s. When ingested first, miracle berries make sour things taste sweet, so chowing down on grapefruits and lemons suddenly sounds like a good idea. What people failed to realize was that the acidity would still wreak havoc on their teeth and tongues, leaving them regretful the next day.

Images via Reuters

12 thoughts on “Electric Chopsticks Bring The Salt, Not The Pain

      1. I believe it’ would make a 33% sodium decrease possible: if we consider the “required-salt-flavor-level” to be 100%, we’ll call that 100 flavor units. If we need 100 flavor units, but the device allows for a 1.5x increase in perceived flavor units, then 100/1.5=66.67 “natural” flavor units needed to ‘seed’ the remaining 33.33 units (%).

  1. Except salt is not the enemy it is made out to be for most people. While it is possible that a small minority of people may suffer increased blood pressure related to salt intake studies have shown that it makes little to no difference in the population as a whole.

    The study by Lewis Dahl that was the basis for the claim that there is unequivocal evidence that salt causes hypertension was conducted on rats by feeding them the human equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day!

    It is remarkable that the rats didn’t die of dehydration let alone see elevated blood pressure.

    While it isn’t an excuse to go crazy with salt, it is important to put it in perspective. Of far greater importance is moderating your intake of refined sugars (including added fructose) and saturated fats. The irony is that many low salt foods have excessive levels of sugar to replace the preservation and flavour enhancing properties.

    Something like a glass of tomato juice that has no added sugar and virtually no saturated fat is a really healthy thing to have in your diet, but some people would lose those benefits because they would avoid it due to concern over the fact that tomato juice typically has added salt.

    Bottom line is unless your doctor has categorically stated that you have a condition that means you are sensitive to salt, then stop fretting about it and instead concentrate on the things that matter in your diet, particularly reducing refined (free) sugars where you can.

    1. Ben Goldacre’s articles on superfoods and other fads are worth a look – TL;DR most of them are based on bad or faulty research and then picked up and mis-interpreted by a non-critical non-technical media desperate for the next elixir of life.

      1. Blood pressure is only a small element in overall health. To know whether we should reduce salt intake, we need a controlled study that lowers salt consumption, and compare long term health outcomes. For instance, there are indications that high salt intake can help fight infections. We would need to compare all effects of salt on the body, not just blood pressure. This requires a long term controlled study where only salt intake is changed. This would be extremely hard to perform. But until then, we don’t really know.

  2. wow; I knew about the miracle berry as a party trick, but never knew it had a serious use as a diet fad.
    Now if we just had a miracle berry that made insipid food taste sapid. Well, I guess there’s black pepper berries…

  3. “the average Japanese person may be eating too much of it on a regular basis — twice the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, according to Reuters”

    What is the average lifespan in Japan, and how does it compare to the lifespans of Reuters and WHO employees? Why do we listen to these people?

    1. This. The same applies to the CDC and most other health “authorities”. I started studying nutrition (independently) several years ago, initially when producing a Soylent style product that could be made from components purchasable with food stamps. I’ve gone way down the rabbit hole since, and it turns out most of the claims are just plain wrong.

      Most nutritional “research” is funded by various parts of the food industry. Our aversion to fat is based on ’60s research by sugar companies. It’s wrong. This is the one place I have formal education, and the biological chemistry is clear: Sugar causes weight gain, not fat, by triggering the body to convert glucose to fat and store it.

      It also turns out that cholesterol was demonized to cover for a handful of food industries, including the sugar industry. Eating cholesterol doesn’t significantly increase cholesterol, because the vast majority is created by your own body. The body doesn’t absorb cholesterol from food unless it needs it due to deficiency. The body actually needs cholesterol (both types, even), and it normally produces exactly what it needs, but it can be stimulated to produce too much. What stimulates it to do this? Sugar, it turns out, though that’s a more recent discovery. (Also, cholesterol doesn’t normally create plaques in your arteries. The reason it does that is that excessive sugar damages the artery walls, creating what are effectively nucleation sites that cholesterol sticks to.

      The human body is also very good at managing salt. It generally won’t absorb too much, and when it does absorb excess, it filters out the extra with the other things that go into urine before it can cause any problems. There are some people whose bodies don’t do this effectively, but they are pretty rare. The CDC estimates that if Americans reduced their salt intake, up to 11 million people with blood pressure problems would see those problems eliminated. This is a deceptive statistic, taking advantage of the fact that humans have a hard time understanding the scale of extremely large numbers. 11 million is a mere 3.3% of the U.S. population. The CDC is recommending a treatment to 100% of Americans, to solve a problem only 3% of Americans suffer from. This is completely irresponsible. Treatment should target those affected by the disease; it shouldn’t attempt to treat everyone, just in case they get the disease. Treating people for problems they don’t have can actually be dangerous. The truth? Over half the number of Americans who have high blood pressure associated with excessive salt intake have hyponatremia, which is salt deficiency. That’s 5.8 million Americans who are consuming too little salt. One of the high risk categories for hyponatremia is people with hypertension. So this CDC recommendation and “treatment” for hypertension is actually causing people to consume too little salt, resulting in a far more serious health condition that can affect everyone, not just the 3.3% of the population affected negatively by excessive salt intake. (Find an NIH paper from 2013 on the topic here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3933395/) So when the CDC says 90% of Americans consume too much salt, that’s a lie. Only 3.3% are actually being harmed by excessive salt intake, and that’s only because they have a condition that creates salt sensitivity that doesn’t normally exist. On the other hand, 1.76% of Americans are suffering from problems with salt deficiency, which is a problem everyone is susceptible to, and it’s a far more dangerous problem than high blood pressure. So 3.3% of Americans have a salt sensitivity that puts them at risk of worse problems, and 1.76% have salt deficiency that is causing immediate and severe problems. The answer is: Make sure you get plenty of salt, unless you have a potentially dangerous sensitivity to it.

      And yeah, look at the general health and lifespan of Japanese people. In general, modern nutrition ignores both historical and recent observational evidence and relies exclusively on studies funded by various elements in the food industry, where there exists a massive bias to protect the various parts of the food industry, even if it comes at the expense of the heath of our nation and their customers.

      Also worth noting: In my studies for the Soylent blend, I didn’t just use FDA/NIH sources for nutritional information and recommendations. I also used some European and Australian government sources as well as some WHO data, and I found massive amounts of disagreement. The fact is, all of these groups are heavily influenced by domestic food industries, and there’s very little objective data and unbiased studies. Just understanding the sources of the data and the biases behind the studies should raise massive red flags. It’s pretty dumb to take any of these organizations at their word. Things are starting to get better, as we are starting to see independent nutritional studies slowly overtaking industry funded ones, but the general quality of nutritional data right now is absolute garbage, and it’s hard to find the independent studies, because food industry reviewers are putting a ton of resources into protecting their own interests by marginalizing and burying studies that they think might hurt their sales.

      (My current diet tries to keep carbs low, fats high, and especially limits high glycemic index carbs, especially sugars and high GI startches (Russet potatoes). I pay close attention to glycemic index and favor products with lower GIs, when I am eating carbs (sucrose sweetened sodas have much lower GI than high fructose corn syrup, and products like ice cream are good sweet options with much lower GI than fruit juices and candies; I also tend to limit my candy intake to darker chocolates, but I’m trying to limit even those). I don’t worry about cholesterol, except in the context of avoiding excessive sugars, so my body doesn’t overproduce. I don’t worry about fats, because the body doesn’t store large amounts when insulin levels aren’t constantly high. I don’t worry about salt, because I don’t have problems with blood pressure (though I should probably start getting more exercise, so this doesn’t turn into a problem, as I think I do have genetics that put me at risk as I get older). I also make sure I eat enough meat, the only true superfood. (Compare the nutritional value of meat with any supposed “superfood”. Meat beats pretty much everything, hands down, and you don’t need much of it to get 90%+ complete nutrition. A little bit of greens and some herbs and spices will cover the remaining ~10% easily. Meat is the one true superfood. Nothing else even gets close. Note though that you should eat decent amounts of vegetables for the fiber though, because while it isn’t nutritional, fiber is pretty important for normal digestive tract function.) Anyhow, my diet isn’t exactly the opposite of what’s recommended by governments, but many aspects of it are, because that’s what the unbaised studies are supporting.)

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