It is a pity that salt and sugar can have harmful effects on the human body if taken in excess. However, a bit like VR glasses "trick" the eyes into showing three dimensions where they don't exist, a pair of special electric rods it causes the tongue to detect salty flavors even in meals that do not have any.
The electric wands are part of an effort by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. They were jointly developed by the research environment of Meiji University and from a Japanese food manufacturer called Kirin (mainly known for its beer). The target? Reduce Japanese salt intake by at least 20%: today it is considerably higher than the recommendations of the World Health Organization.
Less salt, same flavor
At the end of one of the two chopsticks there is a metallic contact that transmits an electric current with a particular wave form into the diner's mouth, enhancing the salty and umami flavors perceived by his taste buds.
In laboratory tests, the additional electrical stimulation of the electric rods increased the salty taste by almost 1,5 times. In summary, you can reduce the salt by 30% without feeling any difference. Sure, if the idea is to lick a 9-volt battery it doesn't sound good, but the researchers say the current level used is undetectable.
Not just chopsticks
It seems the Japanese have an open account with flavors. They have been looking for (clearly technological) solutions to the problem for quite a while. In 2016 another team of Japanese researchers has created an electric fork which enhances the flavors of both salty and acid. In 2020 a company called SpoonTEK pulled out an electric spoon to enhance flavors and reduce aftertaste. More recently, researchers have even gone as far as to create lickable screens able to recreate a wide variety of flavors without actually putting any food in your mouth. Same goes for a strange one "Synthesizer" of flavors developed by the Japanese University itself.
The idea of eating a lunch or dinner without consuming calories is not yet a reality, but with these electric chopsticks the researchers at Meiji University have certainly given it another bite.