The Miracle Fruit Works Miracles

Synsepalum dulcificum, or the miracle fruit, commonly found in parts of West Africa is capable of something that no other fruit known to man can accomplish…it can change the way your tongue perceives taste! In other words, up to 60 minutes after eating this fruit anything consumed that would normally taste sour actually tastes sweet. How does it accomplish this amazing feat? Quite simple actually. The flesh of the fruit contains a short protein to which is attached a carbohydrate chain (glycoprotein). In this case, the glycoprotein is known as miraculin. It is believed that when eaten, the protein portion of the molecule binds to our taste bud receptors responsible for perceiving sweet. Then, when sour foods such as lemons, limes or anything containing vinegar are eaten, the low pH that causes these foods to taste sour causes the protein to change folding structure. This change, in turn, activates the bound receptor which tricks our brains into believing that what we have eaten is actually sweet, not sour. This phenomenon occurs until the molecule is removed from our receptors by enzyme containing saliva.

Since its discovery, miraculin has been expressed in other fruits and vegetables by Japanese researchers and was even being considered for release as a food additive in the US in the 70’s. Too bad this fruit is only located in West Africa and to our knowledge, is not imported to the US. Just think of what fun we could play on our unsuspecting friends with these little red berries!

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