February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Invention: New Cutlery ‘Tricks’ Taste and Benefits Health

A new type of cutlery enhances salty and sweet tastes by stimulating tongue receptors and helping users reduce their salt and sugar intake accordingly.

Foods high in sugar and salt can be unhealthy, but it must be recognized that they are what give the food such an appealing taste. Ideally, we’d like to enjoy their taste in some way… without eating them. That’s what a group of undergraduate and graduate students in Japan thought of and developed a spoon they called “Sugarware”, with a structure that stimulates the taste buds to provide a sweet sensation without the addition of calories or chemicals.

The project follows previous work related to taste-enhancing cutlery, such as chopsticks, which amplify saltiness with a mild electrical current. The new spoon is for people with conditions like diabetes, which affects 11.3% of the US population. Because Sugarware induces a sensation of sweetness without requiring users to consume anything, it can bypass the glycemic response problem.

The new spoon has several bulges on the underside, which create a large surface to press against the tongue.. The bumps can be coated with a permanent layer of molecules to bind to receptor proteins on the surface of taste cells that normally respond to sugar molecules or artificial sweeteners. The binding can trigger a cascade of neural signals that cause the brain to register the sensation of sweetness. In this way, it is possible to “stimulate the receptors without actually adding sugar or artificial sweeteners to the food,” the Scientific American team explained.

Research students say they were influenced by Korean designer Jinhyun Jeong, who experimented with similar types of spoons to see how they could change the whole process of eating, and Homei Miyashita of Meiji University and colleagues, who found ways to stimulate “salt” language receptors.

Miyashita’s team has developed special chopsticks that have a metal contact at the tip to carry an electrical current and act on sodium chloride and monosodium glutamate ions to increase the sensation of “salted” food in the taste buds.

The researchers reported that such a “smart gadget” chopsticks, can increase the sensation of saltiness by up to one and a half times. American company Taste Boosters is using a similar micro-current approach to develop cookware called SpoonTEK. The idea is very creative, but it is still far from being commercialized. But if you want to play with your cutlery and taste it right now, you don’t need specially designed forks or knives.

Previous research shows that the weight, color, and shape of common tableware can change our perception of food taste. So get different cutlery and do an independent taste test. You may find that some spoons are “sweeter” than others, even if they don’t have bulges.



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