How Does the Miracle Berry Change Your Taste Buds?
The miracle berry is a unique fruit that changes your tongue’s ability to perceive tastes. It can make sour things taste sweet, for example. But how do miracle berries work?
What is the Miracle Berry?
The miracle berry is a red berry that grows on a shrub. It’s originally from West Africa.
Its scientific name is Synsepalum dulcificum, but it’s also known as miracle fruit, miraculous berry, sweet fruit, or ledidi.
Fresh berries only last for 2-3 days, but you can get it in a powdered or freeze-dried form. Then it lasts for 10-18 months.
A European explorer named Chevalier des Marchais was exploring West Africa looking for different fruits in 1725 saw the local people eating these berries before every meal. They used the berry to make their bland maize taste better.
The active ingredient is a glycoprotein called miraculin, and it was first extracted from the berry in 1968. It looks like this:
In the 1970’s, someone attempted to commercialize the fruit and sell it to sweeten foods, but the FDA classified it as a food additive and the whole thing fell through. There were accusations that the sugar industry sabotaged the research because it would impede their own sales, but who knows what happened there.
Even so, you can buy powdered or freeze-dried berries, or you can purchase them in tablet form.
How Does the Miracle Berry Work?
When you eat the berry, miraculin binds to the sweet taste receptors on your taste buds. Normally, sweet things like sugar will bind to your sweet taste receptors and, of course, produce a sweet taste.
Miraculin doesn’t work that way, however. It binds to the sweet receptors, but then it only gets activated when something sour touches it, like vinegar or lemon juice. The “sour” thing is perceived by your brain as something sweet.
Researchers found that, when miraculin binds the sweet receptors, it causes the shape of the receptor to change. This means other sweet things that you eat can’t bind to the sweet taste receptor.
However, if you eat something sour (along with the sweet thing), the shape of miraculin changes. This reactivates the sweet receptor. As a result, the sweetness of the sweet thing you’re eating tastes even sweeter than normal.
Researchers also suspect that miraculin might block your sour taste receptors. They’re not exactly sure yet, though.
In any case, the effect usually lasts for about 30 minutes, although it can last up to 2 hours.
There are Other Taste-Changing Plants
There are a couple other plants that change how you perceive taste. Check them out:
- Gymnema sylvestre is a herb from India and Sri Lanka. It’s called miracle fruit, Gymnema or When you eat the leaves, it blocks the sweet receptors, so you can’t taste sweet things.
- Thaumatococcus daniellii is another African plant that makes sour foods taste sweet. It’s also called “miracle fruit” or “miracle berry”.
What Are Miracle Berries Good For?
For one thing, it’s just fun to eat things we know are sour and perceive them as sweet. People get together and have “taste tripping” parties using miracle berries.
There are other uses for them, as well.
They are given to chemotherapy patients to increase appetite and make food taste better.
Dieters can use it to make bland, boring health food tasty and sweet. They can remove sugar and replace it with miracle berries so food tastes sweet but has almost no calories.
There is some early research that indicates it might help improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics.
Like most berries, miracle berries also contain a lot of healthy antioxidants. Of course, there are many companies making the powdered forms, so you’d have to check each manufacturer to see how many remain after processing.
Want to try it? Here are a couple forms you could buy:
MBerry Miracle Berry Tablets
Fresh Miracle Berries
Freeze-Dried Miracle Berries