Miraculin




 
Miraculin is a natural sugar substitute, a glycoprotein extracted from the fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum. 4 The berry, which contains active polyphenols, was first documented by explorer Chevalier des Marchais, who searched for many different fruits during a 1725 excursion to its native West Africa. 1

The active substance, isolated by Prof. Kenzo Kurihara, a Japanese scientist, was named miraculin after the miracle fruit when Kurihara published his work in Science in 1968. 1

'Miraculin is a rogue. Here is a protein which manages not only to shield a sour taste but also to make you believe that what you are eating or drinking is actually sweet! It is a 190 amino-acid glycoprotein and known as a super sweetener. Indeed, purified miraculin contains almost 14% sugar: glucosamine, mannose, galactose, xylose and fucose. It is found in the pulp of the fruit of the miracle berry, otherwise known as Richadella dulcifica or Synsepalum dulcificum, an evergreen shrub native to tropical West Africa." 2

While miraculin changes the perception of taste, it does not change the food's chemistry, leaving the mouth and stomach vulnerable to the high acidity of some foods, such as lemon juice, that may cause irritation if eaten in large quantities. The detailed mechanism of the taste-inducing behaviour is still unknown. It has been suggested that the miraculin protein can change the structure of taste receptors on the cells of the tongue. As a result, the sweet receptors are activated by acids, which are sour in general. This effect remains until the taste buds return to normal. 6

In the 1970s in the USA, an attempt was made to commercialize the fruit for its ability to turn un-sweet 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. 4 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.  3 However, the FDA has denied receiving any pressure from the sugar industry. 5 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". 1


Further Reading
Complete Purification and Characterization of the Taste-modifying Protein, Miraculin, from Miracle Fruit from the Journal of Biological Chemistry 1988 pdf 4 pages



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Bibliography

1 "Synsepalum dulcificum." wikipedia.org. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.
2 Gerritsen, Vivienne Baillie. "The sweet side of life." wikipedia.org. expasy.org. Dec. 2001.
3 Rowe, Aaron. "Super Lettuce Turns Sour Sweet". Wired Magazine. 12 July 2007. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
4 Levin, Rachel B. "Ancient Berry, Modern Miracle: The Sweet Benefits of Miracle Fruit." wikipedia.org. thefoodpaper.com. 23 June 2009. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
5 "The miracle berry." wikipedia.org. BBC. 28 Apr. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
6 Gollner, Adam Leith. "The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession." New York. Scribner, a Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc. 2008. Print.

Published 3 Jan. 2017 LR
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