Life just got a little sweeter thanks to a native West African fruit about the size of a cranberry.
The miracle fruit, “miracle berry,” or more formally Synsepalum dulcificum contains a glycoprotein – conveniently named miraculin - that temporarily fools taste buds into believing that sour and bitter things taste sweet.
Chef Homaro Cantu of Chicago's Moto and iNG restaurants is on a mission to work miracles of his own by using the berry in his restaurants – and beyond.
For the past several years, the forward-thinking chef and co-host of “Future Food” has teamed up with Charles Lee, the CEO of mBerry, to fight diabetes and global famine with the crop.
mBerry has been distributing a freeze-dried form of the fruit in tablets since the company’s creation in 2008.
"It’s no different from a dried drink mix made from berries," says Cantu.
Cantu believes the pill could do away with the need for refined sugar, helping at-risk and current diabetics curb their sugar cravings. Miracle berry supporters also assert that it could create a whole new encyclopedia of gastronomy – including leaves, barks and grasses – that could expand the globe's edible yield.
“All of the plants that we do not consider food that are safe for the human body to digest, we don’t eat because they’re sour and bitter. The reason why you don’t eat Kentucky bluegrass or crabgrass is because it tastes sour and bitter,” says Cantu.
“But here you can do that, because it blocks your ability to taste sour and bitter things and it takes on a very complex, herbaceous quality.”
Yet despite his focus on diabetes and famine, Cantu was first introduced to the ingredient because of another global health issue – cancer.
Knowing Cantu’s interest in the convergence of food and science, friend Paula Perlis called the chef in 2005 with a favor to ask: Her close friend was undergoing chemo and radiation therapy and had not eaten, or enjoyed, a solid meal in six years. (A common side effect of chemotherapy is a strong metallic taste in your mouth.)
Cantu called on Ben Roche, pastry chef at Moto and future co-host of “Future Food,” to assist him on the endeavor.
“We chewed on car tire rubber and foil for months trying to mimic the flavor you get from radiation and chemotherapy,” says Cantu.
After trial-and-error with random ingredients, the chefs finally created a cocktail that counteracted the metallic taste. The cocktail included the miracle berry.
The chefs then isolated the fruit in powder form, passed it along to Perlis’s friend and received a successful - and grateful - call shortly after.
Since then, Cantu has given away the miracle berry away to thousands of chemo patients on his own dime – with no reports of adverse reactions.
“The interesting thing about the miracle berry in chemo patients is that it actually straightens out their taste buds, whereas for you and I, it blocks our bitter and sour receptors,” says Cantu. “For them, it straightens them out to taste food as it normally tastes.”
But as the idiom goes, everything old is new again: the miracle fruit has been known for nearly three centuries. It was first documented in 1725 by French explorer Chevalier des Marchais.
However, it wasn't until 1919 that the fruit was shipped to the United States. It steadily gained popularity throughout the years – that is until 1974, when the Food and Drug Administration ruled that miraculin was not GRAS (an acronym for “generally recognized as safe”) and labeled it a “food additive” instead of a natural sugar substitute.
“…[It's] claimed that competitors, either from the sugar or artificial sweetener industries, or perhaps a scientist who was working on an alternate berry extract, had pressured the FDA to rule against the miracle berry being granted GRAS status,” wrote Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, in Dr. Joe’s Health Lab.
Cantu and other miracle berry advocates, like the producers of mBerry, have been trying to reverse its reputation since.
Back at iNG, guests are given a tablet at the end of the meal. Once the tablet dissolves, diners “flavor trip” for about a half hour. During that time, a lemon wedge will taste like a sweet glass of lemonade, while a lime will taste like an orange.
Combine the lemon juice with sour cream and gelatin, and you’ve got lemon cheesecake. A glass of red wine suddenly tastes like port, and white wine like Sauternes.
"I don’t know if it will become a regular part of my repertoire because it’s something new, it’s different," said recent “flavor tripper” Andrew Kaplan, the Director of Special Projects for Rachael Ray. "I think it’s a great conversation piece. If nothing else, a great party trick too."
Just as the name of his show suggests, Cantu is always looking toward “Future Food” – but is hopeful for at least an impact in the next five years, starting with the release of "The Miracle Berry Diet" cookbook in 2012.
Read more about Chef Cantu's mission at The Next List
Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more. We invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011. Catch up on past coverage and read the live blog from our Secret Supper in Chicago with Homaro Cantu.
Most of you guys are missing the point, these pills arnt made for people with normally taste, but for people like my self, who suffer from chemo trauma or dental trauma, and we suffer everyday from the beitter metallic taste in our mouth that doesnt go away. Ive been suffering for over 2 years now, it constantly feels like I have a bunch of dirty pennys in my mouth. Most of you that are commenting will never experience this. So people like my self would do and try everything to get rid of it, or to even calm the taste, because If we can fool our taste buds to think that bitter is sweet. Life would be much easier for us.
Excuse me, isn't there a biological reason that some things taste sour/bitter to a human? Like maybe that we shouldn't eat bitter things?
If the exotic berry is cultivated overseas, what kind of fertilizer/herbicides are they using?
The Mberry Product is non gmo and organic.
So is strychnine
Are we seriously *just* now hearing about this in America? Because the miracle fruit has been around for a really, long time. No need for a pill- just peel the berry, roll it around on your tongue for a minute, and presto: you've got sweet.
For those of you wondering how Big Brother could ever get everyone to eat that awful Soylent Green,
now you have your answer.
Everyone should come into iNG and try it for yourself. If you aren't totally impressed with this as a viable way to put a major dent in Diabetes by the end of your meal, I will buy you dinner;) Lets occupy healthy junk food. Also, watch the Next List on CNN. Even my kids who are 4 and 6 years old swear they are eating sweets. Cant fool kids when it comes to sweet foods. I encourage skepticism, it makes us better at what we do.
I wish I could have some to try. It sounds awesome. If I were near there I would come. Unfortunately, I live in Hawaii and I have to seriously plan all my travel.
It's all Obamas fault. Even this berry.
Truly a spineless dork comment.
You had to bring spines into this!
No one has heard of the Miracle Fruit. Heck they pay big bucks to people who grow them to have 'mircacle fruit' parties in NY. Not really hard to grow one if you live in the right location. Needs lots of sun, but they take a long time to mature. Someone with a mature plant could reap plenty of dough. It's alright – fun to do but unfortunately it doesn't sugar your coffee as you would like and the sweeeeeet tends to stick to your tongue (at least mine) until the next day. Not really all that pleasnt with your toothpaste. Besides I don't like 'everything' I eat to taste like candy for one to two days!
I'd like to use it to reduce sugar in my diet. Unsweetened tea would taste sweet. Cool.
It says it makes SOUR things sweet.... not bitter things
Read the second paragraph.
Lol... this is news? Miracle berries made the rounds in the "foodie" circles two or three years ago. The "food tripping" parties were fun, but really they only had a novelty value. Sure, making stout beer taste like a chocolate milkshake was cool.., but it messes with *everything* you eat for 30-45 minutes which severely limits it's practical applications..
While many 3 year olds would relish the opportunity to stuff themselves with candy (which is what this makes everything taste like) as an entire meal, most adults would not.
Indeed it was making the rounds a few years back because it was cool. Now chefs are using it to solve some of the world's problems. I'd say that's even cooler.
Well, another reason we don't eat grass is because we can't digest cellulose. For humans, it has about as much nutritional value as styrofoam.
First, you obviously don't eat more acidic stuff than you have to. Eventually, you start to get that feeling you get on your tongue when you eat too many lemons, but the juice will still taste sweet. You have to EAT the tablet first, and let it rest on your tongue for a while. You can't just plop it into a drink and automatically make it sweet. This make a great experiment if you're an open person who likes to try new things. Honestly, I had one before just to try it; lemons tasted like candy. I heard that you can drink wine like soda too. This is great for diabetics since they aren't allowed sugar. Also, most of the food we eat has add-ons too, right? Lobster wouldn't taste like anything without spice. Ever had a cake without sugar? Steak would not be steak if it was just cooked with nothing. I bet you could use the mBerry to make it taste better too. (Just kidding, don't do it.) Point is, the mBerry is useful for a lot of things.
Do yourselves a favor, and only use this if you need it. Like every other thing that has been found to be good for you lately, another company has taken the genuine article and made it crap. First they did it with Stevia, a non-caloric plant that grows in South America. Its 8 times sweeter than table sugar and totally natural. Yet, the crap you get in the stores has other added ingrediants that are not only unnecessary, but bad for you. I found one type of stevia that even has Aspartame in it! WHY!? The entire point is so that you can have a sweet product for a diabetic, without them using a substance proven to cause brain tumors in rats. Now there is this. Just get the fruit, its like a little red bean in size and shape, and probably much better than this "pill" the have concocted where the fruit is probably only one ingrediant with a bunch of other crap added.
Actually, the only things used in the tablets are mBerry powder, and corn starch. so its actually perfect for diabetics if that's what you're worried about.
"Turns sour things sweet."
So they invented...... sugar? This is the lamest bit of news since 'talking text' re-invented the telephone.
You obviously have not tried it.. go do that first and then comment....
Damn... I read this article.... Now I can't say who gives a crap... cuz clearly I do... I hate you AssKutcher
Sorry folks – thought I was replying to the aston kutcher joe pa article... my bad.
BTW – have played with the miricle fruit... in tablet and raw form. Fun stuff... A great find for people with taste challenges.
Smoke pot it makes anything taste good, makes you happy and then its a great night time sleep aid.Who needs chemical engineered drugs when mother nature already produces it for free." BUY AMERICAN POT ! MEXICAN WEED SUCKS "
holy crap that was funny...made me and my friend laugh. thanks it made our day brighter.
The pseudo food companys, like the one that make that "Pops" cereal, must be just loving this! Now they can dowse dog crap in this stuff and ship it to your local grocery store. After all, styrofoam is getting more expensive from china.
Before you run out and buy some, I'd check with your local health foods store to see if this is safe or not – many exotic berries have at least some side effects or are create allergic reations, so I'd ask first, to be safe...
The very last place I would go to find out if something is safe to eat or not would be a health food store. They are virtual cess-fountains of misinformation.
i'm not sold. things taste bad for a reason. and if you overeat something that tastes good, then your stomach will let you know later on.
A "miracle" pill that takes away your ability to taste bitter and sour? This is not a miracle, this is a nighmare.
agreed. you can cheat your taste buds, but good luck trying to cheat the rest of your body.
funny how they don't mention all the chemicals in the cocktail. Give it 10-years – and they'll be revealing the cancer it causes.
This is idiotic- its the perfect way to poison someone. There will be lawsuits galore.
Right... because we are still foraging for food and determining what is safe to eat by how it tastes.
If some mutt wants to stroll into the forest and start munching on goundcover... do you really think, if poisoned, he'll be able to sue anyone because the pill he took made what he ate taste good?
I think his point was that you could deliberately poison (i.e. assassinate) someone by feeding them food laced with deadly, bad-tasting substances and masking the telltale bitterness with the "miracle berry" extract.
People who lack a sense of smell/taste are highly susceptible to this sort of problem already, for exactly the same physiological reason - their tastebuds lack the ability to sense even the strong flavors of spoiled or rancid food.
New study "Marijuana Makes Bad Movies Appear Good and Entertaining".
This isn't anything new, we were ordering these pills 5 years ago to see who could drink the most lemon juice. Everybody won
Yep, thinkgeek has been selling this stuff for years.
Ok, now go find me the berry that counters the effects of a high saturated fat and cholesterol diet.
Should find a pill that makes sweet things taste like crap – that'll help solve diabetes and fatassness in the US.
It's true that we cannot break down cellulose, however, any plant material has cellulose. We casually call it 'fiber'. Just because we don't digest it doesn't mean we can't eat it.
I'd be REALLY upset if a restaurantuer pulled this crap on me.... He can serve up foul tasting garbage and disguise it with this stuff... I think NOT!!
So its ok to 'flavor trip' but its not ok to 'acid trip'..... The failure of logic possessed by the PIC is mind numbing.
Seriously? I think that's a little different. "Flavor Tripping" is lethal. Give me a break.
"Seriously? I think that's a little different. "Flavor Tripping" is lethal. Give me a break."
I didn't realize this stuff was so bad!?! I had no idea flavor tripping was lethal – that's super scary! So I suppose you are advocating for LSD consumption as a safer alternative? I'm not sure I can support that position. :) .. ;)
Soylent Green will be available on Thursday...Line forms to the right.
A whole to meaning to the phrase "Eat me".
I've tested these on many students over the years, and have found a small percentage of people who are not affected by the berries at all. These people have no noticeable change in taste regardless of the "dosage" of miracle berry. Anyone heard of this? have an explanation?
Testing on students ? Maybe that 10% of the class had to gulp a few Red Bulls before class or had some conflicting chemicals floating through their bloodstream at the time.
The miracle berry does not work by injecting a drug into your bloodstream. What happens is that a protein in the berry binds with some of the receptors in your tastebuds. The result is that your tastebuds misfire and send the wrong info to the brain, where it's processed as "sweet".
Pure speculation, but my first guess is there's a genetic component to who responds to this protein. Similar to the small percentage of people who find cilantro nasty tasting
I find cilantro to taste like a cross between ivory soap and nasty smelling sweat socks. I actually gag if I eat more than just a tiny bit.
I thought we didn't eat lemons (as suggested in the article) because their strong acid eats away our tooth enamel and insides. This article implies eating that little pill makes us able to eat all kinds of things. Some of those things taste the way they taste because it is intended by nature that we do not eat them. It is good if it can be used to help chemo therapy patients to eat normal food and have the bad taste taken away... but to serve it after a meal and let people loose on things they normally shouldn't eat is not a good thing.
Those lemons are good for you though. Helps prevent gallstones.
@His Boy Elroy
Some things taste the way they do as a defense mechanism from predation. These pills would be great for camping/hiking/etc as they would expand the things we could eat(safely) without having to get past the bitter/sour.
I see the future shock of this......and thinking about another article about stem cell research on taste buds.....Although I'm not a conspiracy theorist.....am thinking this is what the future will look like......when we can no longer feed our nation with real meat and vegetables. Everything possible is going to have to be harvested......Soylent Green, not quite yet......
Soylent Green. – Provided we don't let the nut job liberal environmentalists control the future we should do okay. I am only referring to those that think there is a limited supply of everything from air to food and wood do away with farm land and machinery if they could.
HELLO CNN, THIS is SUPER OLD NEWS! You ran this regurgitated story a few years back.
I think you missed the point. The miracle berry isn't anything new, that we can agree on. The article talks about how this particular chef is using it currently - plus did you notice the mention of the Miracle Berry Cookbook in 2012? Nobody's made it that available to the masses before. Sure, we've heard of it but now we can actually access it.
I also remember the article from a few years ago...
Too bad they still can't proofread: "Back at iNG, guests are given a tablet at the end of the meal."
Why not give them the tablet _before_ the meal? :)
Because you don't want the meal to taste sweet. You want the dessert to taste sweet.
A LOT of people commenting here are really missing the point. These tablets are all natural, they contain powdered berries and corn starch, nothing else. I have tried these mBerry pills and they are incredible! While I tried hot sauce and vinegar (I still couldnt guzzle balsamic vinegar like soda...donesnt matter what it tastes like, your stomach still wont like it!), the real fun was with a large plate of fruit. My friends and I munched happily on strawberries, pineapple, grape tomatoes (one of my favorites!), apples, and limes. It was a VERY enjoyable experience, and I would recommend that everyone try it, at least once! I agree that this hold a LOT of potential for diabetics or anyone looking to cut excess sugar out of their diets! One pill and you can munch on all of the healthy fresh fruit you want without having to dip anything in sugar to get your sweetness fix! Good stuff! Will it change the world? Probably not, but it is fun!
Wow I thought I was the only one that felt this way! At least WE get it.
Fresh fruit tastes incredible au naturale. Why would anyone put sugar on it?
If it makes shat taste good then congress will mandate that all take it to help them swallow what they put out.
I wonder if this will work on my boss?
It depends on how often you taste him or her. ~_~
Miracle berries have been around for a long time, including the tablets. They are nothing new. But I hadn't heard of their effect on chemo patients, and applaud the chef for both finding the use for the chemo patients and distributing them to the patients at no cost.
That said, Trean is correct. We instinctively taste toxic foods as bitter, because the body doesn't want us eating them. Definitely don't give these tablets to children (they won't appreciate them as much anyway). And be careful what you're ingesting. They've already done a CSI (New York, if I recall correctly) involving miracle berries, where a person at a fancy dinner party was murdered by tainted wine (I think it was ammonia added to the wine), undetectable because of the miracle berries. Although you'd think they'd be able to smell ammonia.
In any case, will it lead to a new form of sweetener, I doubt it. Will it help diabetics, I doubt that too. Is it fun. Hell yes! Buy a pack online. Try them out, eat a few lemons. Heck, eat crabgrass if you want. But don't expect too much from this "miracle".
Welcome to 2 years ago, when this was actually news. It's like that stupid story about fish in fancy restaurants not being what it says it is–the media is getting desperate for good stories and is starting to recycle stuff from years past.
Recycling is green.
WOW! Interesting article – even more interesting are the responses! Anything that will help a cancer patient eat is great.
Great for diabetics and chemo patients. On the other hand, I foresee a comeback of those dandelion and flower salads that Californians tried to push several years back. Yuch!
This was already discovered. I had these pills 20 years ago and u can drink vinegar like soda.
Great. Another useless thing my mate can buy to make food taste un-natural by using a natural substance on a natural product which already had a natural taste, but now tastes sweeter which is not what the first product was intended to taste like at all.
btw I understand this berry can help those undergoing chemo-therapy. I'm just saying for the rest of us this additive is just another flavor enhancer which isn't needed by those who actually practice culinary excellence.
What about the diabetic that wants to have a sweet dessert?
Or the millions of people that suffer from physical and psychological ailments from a diet that is filled with refined sugar?
The possibility to use this fruit to fight global starvation is very interesting.
Ok...now to find a fruit/pill that will turn things sour bc I am no fan of sweets. Sour all the way!
You want to see a REAL miracle. Jesus can take away your pain and heal any disease, sickness, or injury to your body. Check out "mrtomff7" on YouTube.
Really? He can?
First, show me some proof that Jesus exists. ANY proof.
Then prove he can fulfill your claim.
You are breathing..... right? Enough said! There's your proof.
Not positive but I think Jesus is dead. At least according to most accounts.
@The Queen: How did people breathe before Jesus was born?
Unless you're an amputee, or have AIDS/HIV, then Jesus can't do shi.t for you. That's because he hates amputees, and people with AIDS/HIV.
Really? Who's side was he on, during 9/11?
My Masters' Degree in Chemistry included a dissertation on the analysis of artificial sweeteners, and I was a chemist at FDA for years. I do not speak for FDA here, but I speak for the public health. This material no doubt has its proper uses; but nature has provided us with a safety precaution: many toxic substances are bitter, and that warns us not to eat them. Just because you can make something taste sweet doesn't mean it is good to eat !!!! Children are especiallly vulnerable to this mistake, so I think we should be very careful here. I am not sure GRAS status is appropriate for a material that could be used to conceal a toxin.....
I was about to post the same thing - we react negatively to bitter tastes for a reason! However, having witnessed the effects of chemotherapy on loved ones, I can attest to the need for a product that will help chemo patients enjoy food. While this "magic" pill comes with potential dangers and possibilities for abuse (masking the taste of poison, for instance), it holds great potential for improving the quality of life for many people.
Fiona, a magic substance to help chemo patients enjoy food is called WEED. The THC in WEED interacts with your Endocannabinoid System which regulates your appetite.
Its OK to get high and trip off of a miracle pill made from a plant, but you can't get high off of weed....
Wow, we have serious diseases to cure in the world, and we spend our time on this? Pathetic
there are billions of people in the world doing things other than curing diseases. Why are you singling out this? Are you curing diseases while posting comments on CNN?
You do understan that diabetes affects a huge portion of the US, right? You know that this is helpful to chemo patients, right? You know that this is something that could be used to fight world hunger, right? You're a complete moron if you can't see the advantages of something like this.
Malnutrition is a serious consequence of chemotherapy. Making food more palatable (or even edible) to cancer patients is, in fact, curing a serious condition.
Like most, I'm curious......what exactly do you do to help mankind?
Diabetes *is* a serious disease. If people can have sugar-free desserts and feel they've eaten something sweet, this can help to forestall the disease's progression
I'll tell ya what, I'll eat this medium rare T-Bone steak, and you can take a pill and eat your leaves, barks and grasses.
Wow, talk about stupidity. You know there are several famine stricken countries who can't afford to have their t-bone steaks and would kill for sustenance, right? If this is something that could expand what we can call food in order to help others, then why are you shitting all over it? You're an incomprehensible idiot if you can't see that.
Sorry, I couldn't hear your bleeding heart liberal agenda over the sounds of me chomping on my steak.
Hey make mine rare senor Guapo!
So tell me, why are there famine stricken countries anyway ?
Instead of helping them relocate or to grow and raise food we all send them rice and beans so they can eat as much as they can but their bodies still look like they are wasting away.
Nature's goodness, now available in a plastic wrapped package at your nearest local Walmart!
I thought we didn't eat grass because our stomach's can't digest cellulose o_0
Cellulose is good for you. Fiber.
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