Miracle berries have a long and “fruitful” history. From their indigenous use in West Africa over centuries for their ability to alter the taste of food to the United States and their possibilities for changing the course of obesity and taste regulation in cancer patients, this tiny miracle fruit has been discovered and rediscovered, yet still has largely remained outside mainstream focus.
A Quick History
Throughout its history, the berry itself was used for its ability to make bitter, sour, and bland foods palatable and sweet. The indigenous uses in West Africa were discovered and brought west where it had numerous implications for becoming a substitute for our sugar addiction. Even though that application had a rocky start filled with conspiracy theory and bureaucracy, it is still a force for future applications, not only as a natural sweetener but for cancer patients and the taste side effects that they experience during chemotherapy.
The Science of Taste
As the miracle berries were clinically studied, their composition became a remarkable study in the way we understand taste itself. Specifically, the “miracle” of the miracle berry is the protein called miraculin that helps us understand the interaction between taste receptors and food molecules.
Unlike most molecules that stimulate taste receptors, miraculin acts both to bind to receptors inside taste buds and then send neural signals to the brain to perceive the flavor as sweet even when its isn’t. Miraculin acts as an antagonist until it is confronted with acids in the mouth. This causes a drop in pH and changes it from an antagonist to an agonist. Although the berry has little flavor of its own, foods consumed immediately afterward are experienced as sweet. This protein remains bound to sweet receptors for nearly an hour after consumption of the berry and becomes restimulated with the presence of any acidic food or beverage.
So, the acidity of the environment, caused by the food consumed, allows the action of miraculin to switch between antagonist and agonist and offers us new information into sensory perception and the nature of taste. It was discovered that only two of the amino acids of its 191 prompted a change in the whole configuration of the molecule. Although only representing a small one percent of the entire amino acid chain, these two small amino acids entirely change the function of the protein.
The Miracle Berry Today
Although the application as a sweetener was temporarily thwarted by the FDA in the 1970s, it has gained a remarkable reputation once again, particularly with regard to its use in aiding cancer patients to maintain their appetite during and after chemotherapy. Cancer patients have found that the miracle fruit has made food palatable once again. This holds significant promise for patients who can easily succumb to malnutrition that can be threatening to healing and survival.
Miracle berries and products are sold on our website here at MiraBurst®. We offer both frozen berries as well as miracle berry tablets in easy-melt form. Feel free to contact us about our products here.