- Miracle fruit
For Patients & Caregivers
Synsepalum dulcificum can change taste sensation from sour to sweet in patients undergoing chemotherapy, but it has not been shown to prevent weight loss.
Synsepalum dulcificum is a West African plant that produces red berries commonly known as miracle fruits. A protein found in these berries can bind to the sweet taste receptors of the tongue. This causes many sour, acidic foods to taste sweet. The effects last 1-2 hours. Miracle fruit has been proposed for use in taste changes caused by chemotherapy and for weight loss. In small studies, patients undergoing chemotherapy reported improved taste, but no change in weight with miracle fruit.
For Healthcare Professionals
Synsepalum dulcificum is a West African plant that produces a red berry commonly referred to as miracle fruit (1). The berry has been used as a food sweetener and some cancer patients also use it to improve taste changes caused by chemotherapy. The phenolic and flavonoid compounds of miracle fruit have antioxidant activity (2) (3). The puff of the berries contains a glycoprotein known as miraculin that can alter taste perception from sour to sweet (1). Miracle fruit demonstrated antidiabetic effect by decreasing plasma glucose levels while improving insulin sensitivity in an animal model (4).
Compounds isolated from the stem of Synsepalum dulcificum have been shown to inhibit proliferation of melanoma cells (3). Recent investigations have looked into the plant’s ability to stimulate weight loss in humans (5). In a pilot study, 30% of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy reported improved taste, but no change in weight, after consuming miracle fruit for 2 weeks (6). Similar findings of patient-reported improvements in taste were reported in another small study (12). Large clinical trials are needed to confirm this effect.
The taste-altering effect is reversible in 1 to 2 hours after exposure. Adverse reactions from miracle fruit are rare.
Miraculin is a glycosylated protein (7) that acts on the human sweet taste receptor of the tongue (hT1R2, hT1R3). It binds only in acidic conditions, which allows conversion of sour stimuli to sweet (8). The effects last 1 to 2 hours, although the intensity declines with time (9). Miraculin alters taste in primates but not in rodents (8). Maximum taste-modifying activity is observed at pH 3.0, which allows two key histidine residues to facilitate cooperative binding, dimerization and miraculin-to-receptor binding in an acidic environment (10). Only the dimeric and tetrameric forms of miraculin are active (11). In a weakly acidic environment, miraculin acts as a positive allosteric modulator; at neutral pH, it acts as an antagonist that can inhibit the activity of other sweeteners including sucrose, saccharine and aspartame (8). Results from another study suggest that miraculin binds hT1R2-hT1R3 as an antagonist at neutral pH and changes into an agonist at acidic pH (13).
Compounds isolated from the stem of S.dulcificum inhibit the proliferation of A375.S2 human melanoma cells via free-radical scavenging activity and by inhibiting tyrosinase (3).