(Schumach. & Thonn.) Daniell
Bakeriella dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Dubard
Synsepalum dulcificum, also known as the miracle fruit, is a plant with a berry that when eaten, causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin, which is used commercially as a sugar substitute. 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 protons 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 60 minutes).
The berry has been used in West Africa since at least the 18th century, when European explorer 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.
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (August 2012)|
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 burgled 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. The idea of the "miraculin party" was conceived then. 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.
It is a shrub that grows between 6 to 15 feet in height and has dense foliage. Its leaves are 5–10 cm long, 2-3.7 cm wide and glabrous below. They are clustered at the ends of the branchlets. The flowers are brown. It carries red, 2 cm long fruits. Each fruit contains one seed.
The seeds need 14 to 21 days to germinate. A spacing of 4 m between plants is suggested.
The plants first bear fruit after growing for approximately 3–4 years, and produce two crops per year, after the end of the rainy season. This evergreen plant produces small, red berries, while white flowers are produced for many months of the year.
Attempts have been made to create a commercial sweetener from the fruit, with an idea of developing this for patients with diabetes. Fruit cultivators also report a small demand from cancer patients, because the fruit allegedly counteracts a metallic taste in the mouth that may be one of the many side effects of chemotherapy. This claim has not been researched scientifically, though in late 2008, an oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Florida, began a study, and by March 2009, had filed an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The shelf life of the fresh fruit is only 2–3 days. Because miraculin is denatured by heating, the pulp must be preserved without heating for commercial use. Freeze-dried pulp is available in granules or in tablets, and has a shelf life of 10 to 18 months.
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- Levin, Rachel B. (June 23, 2009). "Ancient Berry, Modern Miracle: The Sweet Benefits of Miracle Fruit". thefoodpaper.com. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
- McCurry, Justin (2005-11-25). "Miracle berry lets Japanese dieters get sweet from sour". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-05-28. "The berries contain miraculin, a rogue glycoprotein that tricks the tongue's taste-bud receptors into believing a sour food is actually sweet. People in parts of west Africa have been using the berries to sweeten sour food and drink for centuries, but it is only recently that the global food industry has cottoned on."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Synsepalum dulcificum.|
- "Miracle fruit facts". Archived from the original on 2007-12-03. from the California Rare Fruit Growers
- "The Fruit Hunters: Author Adam Leith Gollner on the Politics of Fruit and the Secret History of the "Miracle Berry"". Democracy Now!. July 9, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- “Riding a Flavor Trip: Tasting a Berry That Rewires Taste Buds.” The New York Times. Video. May 27, 2008.
- "Human Sweet Taste Receptor Mediates Acid-Induced Sweetness of Miraculin." Koizumi A. et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Oct 4;108(40):16819-24. Epub 2011 Sep 26.
- "Cortical Representation of Taste-Modifying Action of Miracle Fruit in Humans." Yamamoto C et al. Neuroimage. 2006 Dec;33(4):1145-51. Epub 2006 Oct 3.