I just randomly came across this berry, while researching some stuff on sugar. I had read that the miracle berry makes sour foods taste sweet and it’s like magic. I was curious enough to order some and try it. I wasn’t expecting much, figured it was just a lot of hype, but still curious. I popped one, chewed it up and went straight for the lemon (might as well go hard). Hesitant and expecting the sourness…BAM! it was the sweetest lemon I ever had, not in the least bit sour. It actually worked. I basically stared trying every fruit in the kitchen. They were all unbelievably sweet…the best version of the particular fruit I ever had.
The effects from the miracle berry lasts for about a half hour. But damn, that was an interesting half hour (Don’t take much to get me excited). Let’s find out more about this berry.
What is the Miracle Berry?
The miracle berry is the fruit of a plant known scientifically as Synsepalum dulcificum, and is native to West Africa [1, 2]. The berry itself is red (kinda like a cranberry), about 2 cm in length and contains a single seed. It was first discovered in West Africa by Chevalier des Marchais, during a 1725 excursion, while he was looking for different types of fruit on the continent.
How does it work? The berry contains miraculin (MCL), a protein, which is flat in taste at neutral pH, but has taste-modifying ability to convert sour stimuli to sweetness. The molecule essentially binds to the taste buds and at low pH (sour foods), miraculin activates the sweet receptors, resulting in the perception of a sweet taste . It not only increases the sweetness perception, “…If you had a strawberry, it’s not just the sweet that goes up, but there’s a dramatic intense strawberry flavor,” says Linda Bartushuk, director of human research at the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida.
The berry itself has about 1-2 calories and is mildly sweet. The effect can last anywhere from half an hour, to an hour. In my personal experience, it tapers off after the half hour mark.
Benefits of the Miracle Berry
Helps reduce obesity Maybe…This is not a magic pill. It could be used in foods to improve the flavor profile and increase the sweetness. Then it may be possible to either eliminate, or at least greatly reduce the amount of sugar, in a donut or other desert or drink, for example. In this sense you’re consuming less calories which should help with obesity.
Helps with Diabetes? In a 2006 study, miracle fruit was used to investigate the effect on insulin resistance in rats. It was found that a single oral dose of the powder of this miracle fruit decreased the plasma glucose for 25 hrs in rats fed fructose-rich food for 4 weeks. Also, the in-vivo (live rat studies) insulin sensitivity was greatly raised by the miracle fruit . Unfortunately this was the only study published in a reputable science journal that I could find. If you come up with something else, let me know.
Antioxidants A 2014 study of miracle berry identified 12 types of phenolics in the fruit. Phenols have the ability to scavenge for free radicals, which are harmful to the human body. The study also showed that miracle berry significantly inhibited the oxidation of polyunsaturated fats in fish oil . This study along with others also revealed that the free phenolic content in the berry skin was almost 3 times of that in pulp and 4 times of that in seeds and reduces oxidation [6, 7, 8]. There have been no human trials/studies to date to test the effectiveness of the miracle berry in a realistic setting, but promising none the less.
Lots of promise for diabetes and good antioxidant activity, but few studies. The ability to make sour/bitter things taste much sweeter is the one thing that’s been shown to work. If anything it makes for an interesting time eating normally sour tasting foods. I’ve tried it and it works so well. There’s no danger to using it. It’s been consumed in West Africa and added to foods for centuries. I think it would be pretty cool to just experiment with cooking and baking. It can be somewhat expensive, since it is not something that is mass produced, but is easily found on Amazon and other places on the web. So go ahead and give it a try!