Miracle Berry

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Synsepalum dulcificum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Sapotaceae
Genus: Synsepalum
Species: S. dulcificum
Binomial name
Synsepalum dulcificum
(Schumach. & Thonn.) Daniell

Bakeriella dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Dubard
Bumelia dulcifica Schumach. & Thonn.
Pouteria dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Baehni
Richardella dulcifica (Schumach. & Thonn.) Baehni
Sideroxylon dulcificum (Schumach. & Thonn.) A.DC.[1]

Synsepalum dulcificum is a plant with a berry that, when eaten, causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet. This effect is due to miraculin, which is used commercially as a sugar substitute. Common names for this species and its berry include miracle fruit[2], miracle berry, miraculous berry,[2], sweet berry,[3][4][5] and in West Africa where the species originates agbayun,[6] taami, asaa, and ledidi.

The berry itself has a low sugar content[7] and a mildly sweet tang. It contains a glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin.[8][9] When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue’s taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. While the exact cause for this change is unknown, one hypothesis is that miraculin works by distorting the shape of sweetness receptors “…so that they become responsive to acids, instead of sugar and other sweet things.”[10] This effect lasts until the protein is washed away by saliva (up to about 60 minutes).[11]

The names miracle fruit and miracle berry are shared by Gymnema sylvestre and Thaumatococcus daniellii,[2] two other species of plant are used to alter the perceived sweetness of foods.


[edit] History

The berry has been used in West Africa since at least the 18th century, when European explorer Chevalier des Marchais,[12] who searched for many different fruits during a 1725 excursion to its native West Africa, provided an account of its use there. Marchais noticed that local people picked the berry from shrubs and chewed it before meals.

An attempt was made in the 1970s to commercialize the ability of the fruit to turn unsweet 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.[7] 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 the need for sugar.[13] The FDA has always denied that pressure was put on it by the sugar industry, but refused to release any files on the subject.[14] Similar arguments are noted for the FDA’s regulation on stevia now labeled as a “dietary supplement” instead of a “sweetener”.

For a time in the 1970s, US dieters could purchase a pill form of miraculin.[10] The idea of the “miraculin party”[10] was conceived then. Recently, this phenomenon has enjoyed some revival in food-tasting events, referred to as “flavor-tripping parties” by some.[15] The tasters consume sour and bitter foods, such as lemons, radishes, pickles, hot sauce, and beer, to experience the taste changes that occur.

[edit] Characteristics

The plant is a shrub that grows up to 20 feet (6.1 m) high in its native habitat, but does not usually grow higher than ten feet in cultivation[citation needed]. Its leaves are 5-10 cm long, 2-3.7 cm wide and glabrous below. They are clustered at the ends of the branchlets. The flowers are brown. It carries red, 2 cm long fruits. Each fruit contains one seed.[4]

[edit] Cultivation

Small specimen in a botanic garden

The plant grows best in soils with a pH as low as 4.5 to 5.8, in an environment free from frost and in partial shade with high humidity. It is tolerable to drought, full sunshine and slopes.[4]

The seeds need 14 to 21 days to germinate. A spacing of 4 m between plants is suggested.[4]

The plants first bear fruit after growing for approximately 3-4 years,[4] and produce two crops per year, after the end of the rainy season. This evergreen plant produces small, red berries, while white flowers are produced for many months of the year.

The seeds are about the size of coffee beans. Without the use of plant hormones, the seeds have a 24% sprouting success rate.[citation needed]

In Africa, leaves are attacked by lepidopterous larvae, and fruits are infested with larvae of fruit-flies. The fungus Rigidoporus microporus has been found on this plant.[4]

Today, it is being cultivated in Ghana, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and South Florida.[4]

Miraculin is now being produced by transgenic tomato plants.[16][17]

[edit] Uses

In tropical West Africa, where this species originates, the fruit pulp is used to sweeten palm wine.[18] Historically, it was also used to improve the flavor of maize bread gone sour.[6]

Attempts have been made to create a commercial sweetener from the fruit, with an idea of developing this for patients with diabetes.[12] Fruit cultivators also report a small demand from cancer patients, because the fruit allegedly counteracts a metallic taste in the mouth that may be one of the many side effects of chemotherapy.[12] This claim has not been researched scientifically,[12] though in late 2008, an oncologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Florida, began a study, and by March 2009, had filed an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[11]

In Japan, miracle fruit is popular among patients with diabetes and dieters.[8][9]

The shelf life of the fresh fruit is only 2–3 days.[citation needed] Because miraculin is denatured by heating, the pulp must be preserved without heating for commercial use.[citation needed] Freeze-dried pulp is available in granules or in tablets, and has a shelf life of 10 to 18 months.[citation needed]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Synsepalum dulcificum (Schumach. & Thonn.) Daniell”. African Flowering Plants Database. Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville Genève – South African Biodiversity Institute. http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/details.php?langue=an&id=91441. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  2. ^ a b c Wiersema, John Harry; León, Blanca (1999). World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. CRC Press. p. 661. ISBN 0849321190. http://books.google.com/books?id=hQL-2sdxgDAC. 
  3. ^ Peter Hanelt, ed. (2001). Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops. 2. Springer. p. 1660. ISBN 3540410171. http://books.google.com/books?id=10IMFSavIMsC. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g James A. Duke, Judith L. DuCellier, ed. (1993). CRC handbook of alternative cash crops. CRC Press. pp. 433–434. ISBN 0849336201. http://books.google.com/books?id=-tg7R4hU8hkC. 
  5. ^ John C. Roecklein, PingSun Leung, ed. (1987). A Profile of economic plants. Transaction Publishers. pp. 412. ISBN 0887381677. http://books.google.com/books?id=C8eRalwPua0C. 
  6. ^ a b Plant inventory. 58: Seeds and plants imported. United States Department of Agriculture. 1919. p. 42. http://books.google.com/books?id=IEBJAAAAMAAJ. 
  7. ^ a b Levin, Rachel B. (June 23, 2009). “Ancient Berry, Modern Miracle: The Sweet Benefits of Miracle Fruit”. thefoodpaper.com. http://www.thefoodpaper.com/features/health/miracle-fruit.html. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  8. ^ a b McCurry, Justin (2005-11-25). “Miracle berry lets Japanese dieters get sweet from sour”. London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/nov/25/japan.foodanddrink. Retrieved 2008-05-28. “The berries contain miraculin, a rogue glycoprotein that tricks the tongue’s taste-bud receptors into believing a sour food is actually sweet. People in parts of west Africa have been using the berries to sweeten sour food and drink for centuries, but it is only recently that the global food industry has cottoned on.” 
  9. ^ a b Balko, Radley (2007-02-08). “Free the Miracle Fruit!”. Reason Magazine. http://www.reason.com/blog/show/118589.html. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  10. ^ a b c Rowe, Aaron (2006-12-07). “Super Lettuce Turns Sour Sweet”. Wired Magazine. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/12/72251. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  11. ^ a b Park, Madison (March 25, 2009). “Miracle fruit turns sour things sweet”. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/25/miracle.berries.weightloss/index.html. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  12. ^ a b c d Slater, Joanna (2007-03-30). “To Make Lemons Into Lemonade, Try ‘Miracle Fruit’”. Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB117522147769754148-lMyQjAxMDE3NzM1MDIzMjAxWj.html. Retrieved 2008-05-28. “Two American entrepreneurs, Robert Harvey and Don Emery, tried this route back in the 1970s, but the venture failed.[specify] They initialy focused products for diabetics, but some of their financial backers, who included Reynolds Metals Company and Barclays Bank PLC, had a loftier goal.” 
  13. ^ Mangold, Tom (2008-04-28). “Sweet and sour tale of the miracle berry”. The Week. http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/27131/sweet-and-sour-tale-miracle-berry. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  14. ^ “The miracle berry”. BBC. 2008-04-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7367548.stm. Retrieved 2008-05-28. “”I honestly believe that we were done in by some industrial interest that did not want to see us survive because we were a threat. Somebody influenced somebody in the FDA to cause the regulatory action that was taken against us.”" 
  15. ^ Farrell, Patrick; Kassie Bracken (2008-05-28). “A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue”. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/dining/28flavor.html. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  16. ^ Hirai T., Fukukawa G., Kakuta H., Fukuda N., Ezura H. “Production of recombinant miraculin using transgenic tomatoes in a closed cultivation system” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2010 58:10 (6096-6101)
  17. ^ Sun H.-J., Kataoka H., Yano M., Ezura H.”Genetically stable expression of functional miraculin, a new type of alternative sweetener, in transgenic tomato plants.” Plant Biotechnology Journal 2007 5:6 (768-777)
  18. ^ Oliver-Bever, Bep (1986). Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 266. ISBN 052126815X. http://books.google.com/books?id=e1I9AAAAIAAJ. 

[edit] External links

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synsepalum_dulcificum

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