Miracle Berry’s Mystery Cracked

Researchers in Japan Developing a Safe Sweetener for Anti-Diabetes and Anti-Obesity Use

by Fabian Perez, age 14

            Scientists have recently uncovered the secrets of the red miracle berry, this berry tricks your taste buds, coating your tongue with a juice that makes sour foods, like vinegar and lemon, taste super sweet. For four decades, why this type of berry changes sour flavors to sweet has been a mystery. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered the miracle berry’s secrets.
            This particular berry comes from a plant called Richardella dolcifica, which grows in West Africa. In order to understand the mystery behind the miracle berries, scientists used a type of cultured cells to imitate real human taste cells. They discovered that miraculin strongly binds to sweet taste buds. The protein changes shape in the presence of the acid in the human mouth. This combination activates the sweet taste buds, creating a sensation of ultra-sweet flavor, which drowns out the sour.
When you swallow the sour, acidic food, the miraculin goes back to its previous inactive shape. It remains there in the sweet receptor for an hour or so, waiting for the next acidic treat.
            The red miracle berry also affects the taste of sweet foods in many interesting ways. If you put a lot of aspartame (artificial sugar) on your tongue after eating a miracle berry, the miraculin will repress your sweet receptors. This will make sweet foods taste bland. But in more acidic conditions, the berry makes aspartame taste really sweet.
            In Japan the miracle berry is very popular among dieters. According to lead researcher, Keiko Abe, “We are interested in a large-scale production of miraculin because it has a good, sucrose-like taste and combines a non-caloric property, since developing a safe sweetener for anti-diabetes and anti-obesity uses is of pressing importance.”
           In the U.S., the FDA has decided that the miracle berry is an unhealthy additive, and still needs to be properly tested. It is not being produced commercially.

[Source: http://www.wired.com]

Wow!! Great article. – UW GradMadison (2013-07-05 10:58)
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