Sunday, February 19, 2017
Miraculous berry make super sweet biter and sour food in your mouth
Synsepalum dulcificum is a plant known for its berry that, when eaten, causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin. Common names for this species and its berry include miracle fruit, miracle berry, miraculous berry, sweet berry, and in West Africa, where the species originates, agbayun, taami, asaa, and ledidi.
The berry itself has a low sugar content and a mildly sweet tang. It contains a glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin. When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. At neutral pH, miraculin binds and blocks the receptors, but at low pH (resulting from ingestion of sour foods) miraculin binds proteins and becomes able to activate the sweet receptors, resulting in the perception of sweet taste. This effect lasts until the protein is washed away by saliva (up to about 30 minutes).
The names miracle fruit and miracle berry are shared by Gymnema sylvestre and Thaumatococcus daniellii, which are two other species of plant used to alter the perceived sweetness of foods.
The berry has been used in West Africa since at least the 18th century, when European explorer the Chevalier des Marchais provided an account of its use there. Marchais, who was searching West Africa for many different fruits in a 1725 excursion, noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed it before meals. In the 1970s in the USA, an attempt was made to commercialize the fruit for its ability to turn unsweet foods into sweet foods without a caloric penalty, but ended in failure when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the berry as a food additive. There were controversial circumstances with accusations that the project was sabotaged and the research files stolen by the sugar industry to prevent loss of business caused by a drop in demand for sugar. However, the FDA has denied receiving any pressure from the sugar industry.Arguments similar to the ones used for this classification were used for the FDA's regulation on stevia now labeled as a "dietary supplement" instead of a "sweetener".
For a time in the 1970s, US dieters could purchase a pill form of miraculin. This phenomenon has enjoyed some revival in food-tasting events, referred to as "flavor-tripping parties" by some. The tasters consume sour and bitter foods, such as lemons, radishes, pickles, hot sauce, and beer, to experience the taste changes.