Thursday, November 23, 2006

African berry turns sour to sweet for Japanese on a diet

Thought this was kinda interesting. $3.50 a pop sounds like, well, a lot. Not new info, but new to me.

Tokyo dieters with a sweet tooth can enjoy cakes and fruit ices with minimal sugar and no artificial sweeteners at a new cafe that opened last week. The desserts are unpalatably sour in taste, but customers are instructed to chew on an African berry, called “miracle fruit,” which contains a protein that causes the taste buds to temporarily sense sour as sweet.

Active ingredient is miraculin. "is a glycoprotein extracted from the miracle fruit plant, a shrub native to West Africa (Synsepalum dulcificum or Richadella dulcifica)"

The detailed mechanism of the taste-inducing behavior is still unknown. It has been suggested that the miraculin molecule can change the structure of taste cells on 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.

While attempts to express it in E. coli bacteria have failed, Japanese researchers have succeeded in preparing genetically modified plants, such as lettuce, that express miraculin. This efficient method to produce miraculin might be able to be applied to create a new sugar-free sweetener.

This came from reading a Phil Baker post about `In Everything Give Thanks'. I like it.

"In Africa there is a fruit called the 'taste berry,' so called because it changes a person's taste buds in such a way that everything eaten after it tastes sweet. Giving thanks is the 'taste berry' of Christianity. When our hearts are full of gratitude, nothing that comes our way will be unpalatable to us. Those whose lifestyle is marked by thanksgiving will enjoy a sweetness of life unparalleled by any other." - Robert Strand, The Power of Thanksgiving (Evergreen Press, 2001) [Courtesy of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox.]

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