Salt may be a friend of the senses, but it can be an enemy of the body. Linked to high blood pressure, heart problems, and unhealthy eating in general, the seasoning may be one of the hardest for our bodies to swallow. A new table fork that electrically stimulates the taste of salt may be the answer to our body’s desperate pleas to cool it with the salt, already.
Developed in Japan, the electric fork triggers taste buds that signal saltiness, flavoring bland meals without clogging the arteries. It can also simulate sourness and even different textures.
“It’s a technology that allows electricity to be used as seasoning,” said Hiromi Nakamura, a researcher at the University of Tokyo, who is part of the “No Salt Restaurant” project that aims to improve local diets.
In a test, diners were able to taste saltiness as long as the fork remained in the dish. Once the cutlery is removed, and chewing commences, the salty sensation disappears, disappointing the diner now stuck with a bland mouthful. As for the chance of a shock accompanying your meal? Fear not, Nakamura claims that the risk of electrocution is nil.
Scientists have been using electrical currents to examine how the tongue senses taste since at least the 1970s — hence those diagrams in elementary school telling you which part of your tongue tastes each flavor. So while the principle may not be new, this experiment appears to be the first time that electrically modifying taste is as easy as taking a bite with a fork. Soon you may simply need to crank a switch to taste salty, sour, dry, or gummy.
The researchers, unfortunately, were not able to trick people into believing they were tasting sweetness with electricity. Sugar, it turn out, is something special, and Nakamura may be slightly overselling his invention when he says we’ve triumphed over the dangers of unhealthy eating.
“(The fork) will satisfy the desire of those wanting to eat a healthy diet that is also full of flavor,” Nakamura said. Doesn’t dessert count as a healthy diet?