The miracle fruit is a a berry containing the glycoprotein miraculin with the unlikely effect that when your taste buds meet this substance, you taste sour foods as they were sweet. That is, your perception of sourness is altered. In certain parts of the world, the substance has been used for quite long, whereas in USA and Europe it has not yet been cleared for use as additive. The berry in itself is allowed, but unfortunately they don't keep for long and are apparently not suited for shipping fresh. However, a freeze dried version made into tablets does exist and this is the version I tried.
There is quite some amount of research on the effect and mechanism of miraculin on our tongue as a google scholar search for "miraculin" reveals. The first scientific report was in Nature as early as in 1968. There is also research indicating that other plants exhibit similar effects, such as curculin from the Curculigo latifolia plant. The miraculin protein structure shown here is taken from the Swiss protein structure homology-modeling service.*
An ordinary google search gives various producers and web shops for buying the stuff. Adding to the fun are the conspiration theory-like suggestions (two refs.) of the sugar industry's ways of stopping miraculin approval in the USA since the product might reduce the population's consumption of sugar (which of course is beneficial for everyone except the sugar industry). There are also efforts being made on producing the miraculin glycoprotein using genetic engineering methods, and I guess the hope is that one might efficiently produce miraculin or a relative using common plants or organisms such as lettuce or E-coli bacteria (same as is done with production of other proteins/enzymes such as medicinal insulin or rennet for cheesemaking).
How does it work (in practice)?
Just pop a tablet of freeze dried miracle fruit in your mouth, let it roll arond until dissolved. It takes about a minute or two and tastes not very much. Rather flavour-/tasteless with some green flavours, tastes somewhat "healthy" if you know what I mean.
And what about the effect?
The effect is remarkable upon tasting various foods subsequent to eating the tablet. The effect lasts for about half an hour.
My sensory impression is that it alters the tongue's sensations, making sour taste sweet. That is, it does not suppress acid/sour taste, but part of the sour taste is converted to sweetness. The sweetness is rather sugary in character. However, some of the sour perception is still there, leaving part of the bite/freshness. It is almost like 70-80 % of the sour is converted to sweet, or somewhat like adding a lot of sugar to the food. In my experience, bitterness is not reduced, as claimed by one of the retailers (see tasting notes below).
The problems might arise later on, however, when you realise how much acidic food you have been swallowing... Below follows a long list of foods and how I felt it tasted (before and) after having the "miracle pill". You'll also find some relevant blog posts and research references if you scroll past the list.
Blogposts on miraculin/miracle fruit
- Cooking issues: A nice posting on miraculing and gymnemic acid (something of an opposite of miraculin)
- notcot.com: tasting using fresh miracle fruit/berries
- taffel.se: well researched post in Swedish ("Anti-syratripp: Mirakulin ger kick åt matnördar")
- khymos: short posting on miracle fruit
Selected scientific papers
Brouwer et al. (1968). Miraculin, the Sweetness-inducing Protein from Miracle Fruit. Nature 220, 373-374.
Theerasilp et al. (1989). Complete amino acid sequence and structure characterization of the taste-modifying protein, miraculin. J. Biol. Chem., 264, 6655-6659. (open access paper + "fellow 1988 article")
Paladino et al. (2008). Molecular modelling of miraculin: Structural analyses and functional hypotheses. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm., 367(1), 26-32.
*Appropriate references to Swiss-model protein structure
Kiefer F, Arnold K, Künzli M, Bordoli L, Schwede T (2009). The SWISS-MODEL Repository and associated resources. Nucleic Acids Res. 37, D387-D392.
Jürgen Kopp and Torsten Schwede (2004). The SWISS-MODEL Repository of annotated three-dimensional protein structure homology models. Nucleic Acids Res. 32, D230-D234.
Wow, this is very interesting. Science like this definitely needs more publicity. I've been a health advocate for some time now, and I only just found out about miraculin. I'm sure if word got out, there would be a lot more people lobbying to make miraculin FDA-approved.ReplyDelete
Probably, but I guess it hasn't been tested properly either. I'm not up to date on these matters, however. Another challenge is the uncontrollability of the effect. It takes some time for it to start working, and the effect lasts from 1/2-1 hour or so. The result is that you cannot apply this to only one dish, because it will impact the taste perception for all dishes within a certain time span.ReplyDelete
Were apples and pears tested before people started eating them? Miracle fruit is just a fruit, fruit, fruit, fruit! African natives have been eating it for hundreds of years to make their sour bread sweet. All this hogwash makes this matter sound like a big deal. FDA simply did not put this fruit or its processed form - which is again a simple freeze or spray drying, just like instant coffee production- in the cathegory of Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) foods because of big company politics. If sugar were invented today FDA would not allow it was going to harm the artificial sweetener companies! Indeed sugar is a lot more harmful than miracle fruit or its dried pulp! So my friends don't take this thing so seriously. Besides only microgram quantities of this thing is taken when a whole berry is ingested! How about that? And toxicity tests were conducted with doses thousands of times higher than the necessary dose to produce its taste modifier effect! I know I was involved in the whole thing! Corporate America is capble of everything especially screwing up peoples' brains!Delete
see reply to your other comment at the bottom
Erik - a comprehensive setup there with all those food stuffs! Do you see any practical use for the berries? Or does it all boil down to the "wow" effect?ReplyDelete
BTW - where did you get your tablets from?
Martin: there is some talk about the use as additive, but I guess that must be a technologically ("techno-physiologically") demanding task since the effect presumably needs some time to develop (or, does it? I really don't know, to be honest). If this is the case, it must be taken some time before the designated dish arrives (incorporated in the previous dish, perhaps?). Secondly, it takes quite some time for the effect to wear off. Hence, it will affect all taste sensations for the rest of the meal. Such as ruining a good whiskey/cognac/liqueur by miraculin applied prior to a dessert.ReplyDelete
Anyways, I guess the Japanese are working on the tech side of this. Maybe a modified version (synthetic or GMO?) or some other substance with similar effect might have a rapid response and short duration? Just guessing, really...
I tried the "Miracle frooties" tablets bought from http://www.miraclefruitworld.com/. I'll send you a tray, since I ordered two packs and have problems using them up.
It will ruin any white wine as well. Really ruin.ReplyDelete
And you can kill off the effect quite quickly with coffee. Or hard liquor...
Anyway. My favorite is by far tomatoes.
Carl-Christian: hmmm, I wonder what the mechanisms for this killing-off might be. That would of course make this a whole new ballgame if you could efficiently kill off the effect with an amuse-bouche in between courses.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely try them next time.
Really interesting tasting notes! Also try Gymnema Sylvestre, if you haven't already. They make for a very educational experience as well, though surely not as pleasant as magic berries. Soft drinks, bread, and honey were some of my favorites with gymnema.ReplyDelete
Do you know anything about its Genetic structure or coding? Or any place where I might find that information? My name is Jessica btw..ReplyDelete
I've posted two more entries on miraculin after this one. Those two include lots of references although it doesn't cover all that has been published. Thus you might find something at http://www.fooducation.org/search/label/miraculin. However, it's not unlikely that I could have left out refs on the topics of your interest due to my ignoranc when it comes to genetics:) If you don't find anything in the mentioned posts I can have another look in my miraculin reference list. In that case, let me know.
Miracle Fruit Nov 19, 2013ReplyDelete
I pioneered in the attempts to commercialize miracle fruit in the US at the Miralin company founded by the late R.J Harvey (died in 2010) in the early seventies, (between 1970 and 1973 to be exact) until the FDA gang sent the project down the drain for no logical reason. The FDA was obviously bought out by the sugar and artificial sweetener gang. There can be no other explanation! Miracle fruit was denied the cathegory of "Generally Recognized As Safe" (or GRAS). So all the hogwash about this affair is pathetic! Take a pear put in a blender and grind it to a thin slurry and then freeze it at minus 70 degrees centigrade and then dry the ice under vacuum, then pulverize it, you get powdered pear. You can also spray dry it just as is done with instant coffeee. Miracle fruit tablets (or drops as had WE named them) are made from the dried pulp of miracle fruit This pulp contains minute quantities (ca. 1 microgram per berry) of the active substance called miraculin which is a glycoprotein and therefore is not stable in a liquid environment for more than a span of several days even at room temperature. This is why it is made into a dry powder. For the same reason it can not be added to food or cooked in it. So you can not put it into your cup of coffee or tea. It does not sweeten things, it is not sweet itself. It fools your taste receptors to perceive sour things as sweet in the presence of mild acid (which all fruits and vegetables are) by binding to and stimulating your sweet taste receptors. It is just like wearing a pair of colored goggles to make everything appear in the color of the goggles. FDA said that it can only be used as a "food additive" but not as food. They could not have made a more stupid remark than that! You don't add miracle fruit to your food, you add it to your mouth! Suppose you are having a cup of tea but you are not allowed to add sugar in your tea but you first put it in your mouth and then drink the tea. It tastes sweet doesn't it?. Putting a miracle fruit berry itself in your mouth and chewing it or putting some powder of it in your mouth and then drinking you tea (I suggest you put a drop of lemon juice in your tea to make it a little acidic, because Miracle fruit works best in acidic environment) is the same. Miracle fruit is just a fruit like myrads of other tropical fruits from Africa. It has been consumed by natives for hundreds of years for making their sour bread sweet. Unfortunately in those days, those grown-ups in the FDA were able to fool the American people lying shamelessly about such a simple thing as this as if they were kidding children. And every body swallowed their lies but the Japanese grabbed the idea and perhaps some Yamomotos, Akinos and I don't know who, made fortunes from it. But then again many many years later these same people fooled Americans once more by telling them that during the 9/11 plane strikes Twin Towers came down as in a controlled demolition (onto their footprints - so to speak) by the melting steel heated by the burning airplane fuel and even more absurdly that Building 7 in the neighbouhood collapsed again just like in a controlled demolition by the shock of collapsing Twin Towers. I say Building 7 collapsed because it was inspired to do so by the other two!
thanks for the two contributions above. I won't attempt to have an opinion on the Americal politics concerning miracle fruit, miraculin and sugar. You have several good points in your comments concerning certification and from the case of tobacco insdustry as well as sugar industry vs. the World Health Organization (WHO) we have all become aware of the power of the big industries producing stuff that's either not particulalrly healthy or even straight out harmful as you point out.
Your point on the matter of additive vs. food is also very reasonable and it makes very much sense, of course. The fruit is a fruit, and freeze dried fruit is still fruit although is can be considered processed rather than fresh.
It'll be interesting to see how things proceed as such certification processes are incredibly slow. I guess many of the things we now ingest daily might have been difficult to introduce today, such as coffee.
On the matter of 9/11 I will of course not comment as this is a blog on food and this post is on miraculin. I'd like to draw your attention to the other two posts on miraculin as well, written subsequent to this one here. There I've tried to collect and systematise information about miracle fruit and miraculin. Should you have a look and find something to be wrong or missing, feel free to comment on the matter of miracle fruit. However, I believe that all information included is directly based on research articles and referenced rather systematically. So any major errors could then probably be traced back to the original research papers.
So if I wanted to put miracle fruit powder in a slow-release, slow melt oral tab to help with appetite control the FDA would not allow it?ReplyDelete
Also, any sources where I can purchase (either in USA or Japan) miracle fruit powder?
SyberVision, the post above is now 4,5 years old so legislation might have changed, although I doubt it (see some later posts about this issue including legislation. Click "miraculin in the labels field inthe right hand corner). You can most likely use it as you like as long as you don't promote the product commercially.Delete
Things do happen in this area, although slowly (regulating new additives and ingredients is a long process). You might e.g. have noticed that steviosides/stevia sweetener is now accepted and is already being promoted loudly by various manufacturers.
It is fairly easy to find, just make a search for "miracle fruit" or "miraculin" and you'll find several retailers.