It would be hard to miss the newsflash the other day that Kirin Holdings and Meiji University have done it once again. In another new technological breakthrough, they have produced some slightly shocking results. The same Japanese partnership that brought us Taste the TV – the first “lick-able” TV screen to accurately mimic food flavours in real time – have come up with something even better. They have created a ‘chopstick device’ that can boost the taste of salt in foods while you eat them. The chopsticks are essentially connected by a wire to a mini-computer that is worn on a wristband and creates electrical stimulation waveform that works its magic to make lower-sodium foods taste saltier when eaten. In fact, the device is able to supercharge the perceived saltiness of foods by 1.5 times without changing the actual salt content of each bite.
Although the thought of voluntarily putting a pair of electrically charged chopsticks attached to a lead into your mouth might sound like a badly thought out dare, the charge is said to be too weak to affect the human body. Yet it is just strong enough to affect the perception of taste. Which means that it could be a useful tool to help people eat a diet that is lower in salt and healthier without missing any salty flavour. This joint project is part of an overall aim of Kirin Holdings to support lifestyle disease prevention and addressing the very high salt consumption rates in Japan is a good place to start. Because the evidence is crystal clear. High salt consumption is a real killer.
You may have noticed the recent outcry in the media about the new government regulations that have come into force requiring calorie information to be displayed on menus in England. You would be hard pressed to find many in favour of this initiative, at least publicly, as it feels like there has been a complete dogpile on any dissenting opinions. To recap, critics of this new law say that simply shifting the responsibility onto customers by giving them the calorie counts of meals and then expecting them to make healthy choices is hardly going make a dent in the obesity crisis. Displaying calories on menus may also cause anxiety and stress to those who are vulnerable or who are already suffering from eating disorders. As a Registered Nutritionist, I cannot disagree with either of these criticisms. But I am going to have to also stick my neck out to say that I am think cafes, restaurants and takeaways should display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items that are prepared for customers. In fact, I would argue that the more readily available information we have about our food and drink, the better.
With the recent back-to-back storms of Dudley, Eunice and Franklin battering the UK with increasing force as they tried to outdo each other in what must be the ultimate battle of sibling rivalry, there haven’t been many opportunities to exercise safely outside. It’s all very well to be told by some hardened Scandinavian veteran that ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’ but how exactly do you dress for 80mph winds without losing an item or two? I fear for the owners of small dogs who must struggle to grip their leashes while praying that they don’t fly away as the tail of a dog-shaped kite. I thought the gym would be the obvious workout solution to escape the wintery elements. But the extreme gym air con set to ice age temperatures and incoming draught of polar winds from outdoors only gave me a bad cold. A rest day was definitely in order. Although, as I hunkered down indoors and tried to catch up on some culinary reading I was only more distracted by the sound of the wind whipping the windows. As the wind circled the garden and violently toppled over every piece of heavily anchored piece of furniture almost as an afterthought, my thoughts quickly turned to comfort. After all, it was getting close to dinnertime…
For many people, the commencement of another New Year doesn’t just remind them that time is passing by far quicker than they thought and confirms the obvious, that they really are getting old. It also marks a time of the year when the masses devote themselves to having another go at making a big change all wrapped up in some fat resolutions. The majority of these resolutions always seem to relate to diet and exercise but it’s hardly surprising when they more than often resemble the same good intentions from the previous year. Nonetheless, every January the number of people who sign up to Dry January, Veganuary, start a new diet or weight-loss programme, join a gym or commit to running an extremely a long race seems to only grow.
Food waste has always been a real bugbear of mine but like most people, I hold a particular bias. Although no one likes to discover some long forgotten food item in their kitchen that has clearly aged well beyond its use-by-date, I absolutely despair when something that was perfectly edible and especially tasty is needlessly wasted. Therefore, for purely selfish – or perhaps, more accurately – greedy reasons, it really pains me when the discarded foodstuff in question is something that I like to eat. Which is why when I read in the media about the recent arrest of a couple of spies for espionage-related charges I shuddered with horror. Not because they had been trying to sell secrets about nuclear powered US submarines in an eerie Vigil-like copycat. But that the spies had concealed an SD card containing highly classified information with a message wrapped in plastic inside half of a peanut butter sandwich. It was used in a ‘dead-drop’ in an outrageous abuse of peanut butter!