J. Walter Thompson Japan and Kanagawa-based Ishii Clinic gave hypertension patients a new lease on their gastronomical life at the ‘No Salt Restaurant’, which paired a menu of salt-free dishes with an innovative Electro Fork that serves up a salty sensation.
Today, excessive intake of salt is a global health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 in 3 people above the age of 25 have hypertension, which puts them at risk for heart attack and stroke. Still, many people find it hard to cut back on salt – and those that do often despair that their favourite meals just don’t taste the same.
“Hypertensive patients are told to restrict their daily salt intake to 6 grams, but it is difficult to follow. Many of them simply can’t resist the salty flavour and if they dine out, just one meal could exceed the daily limit. As a result, many patients rely on medication. If we can change the situation, we could reduce the overall cost of healthcare and save many lives cost,” said Dr. Takashi Ishii, Director of the Ishii Clinic.
In order to enable these patients to enjoy delicious meals again without having to worry about the salt intake, J. Walter Thompson Japan collaborated with Hiromi Nakamura, a research fellow at the University of Tokyo’s Dr. Jun Rekimoto Laboratory, who has worked on “Augmented Gustation”, a technology that alters the taste of food using cathodal currents. The taste of these currents can be one of salty, sour, bitter or metallic.
Leveraging Dr. Nakamura’s technology, J. Walter Thompson Japan worked with a team of engineers to create a working model of what’s been dubbed the Electro Fork, which mimics the taste of salt by delivering a mild current to the taste buds, for the pop-up restaurant project.
J. Walter Thompson Japan brought in a chef and food stylist to create a full course salt-free meal, which was served to hypertension patients from the Ishii Clinic at two locations in Tokyo over two nights. The agency took over a restaurant in Setagaya, Tokyo on March 24 and another in Higashi-azabu district on April 10 for the pop-up restaurant. Diners were provided an Electro Fork to eat the food. The dishes included Saltless Meatloaf, Saltless Pork Cutlet, Saltless Salad, Saltless Fried Rice, and Saltless Cake.
“I could really taste salt, I can’t believe it!,” said one Yuki Ando, a 42 years old who suffers from hypertension. “I really enjoyed eating, for the first time in a long time,” added Yosuke Miura, aged 50.
“The No Salt Restaurant” illustrated how we can harness technology to shape a better future for how and what we eat. The project also helped communicate to people grappling with high blood pressure that it’s possible to enjoy a delicious meal while preventing illness and improving health,” said Kohei Kawasaki, Senior Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Japan. “I hope that this initiative becomes a trigger to help us reconsider food habits and our eating culture – and becomes a solution to an important global health issue.”