Synsepalum dulcificum

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Synsepalum dulcificum

Common Names

  • Miracle fruit

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works

Preliminary data suggest Synsepalum dulcificum may 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 fruit. 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, and the effects may last for one to two hours. Miracle fruit has been proposed for use in taste changes caused by chemotherapy and for weight loss, but studies are quite limited. Data suggest that some patients undergoing chemotherapy reported improved taste, but no change in weight with miracle fruit.

Purported Uses
  • Low calorie sweetener
    Although miracle fruit may make things taste sweeter, it has not been shown to help weight loss.
  • Taste changes caused by chemotherapy
    Small studies suggest benefits. Larger studies are needed.
Do Not Take If
  •     You are allergic to this fruit.
Side Effects
  • Stomach ache and throat discomfort have been reported.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Synsepalum dulcificum
Clinical Summary

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 puff of the berries contains a glycoprotein known as miraculin that may alter taste perception from sour to sweet (1).

Studies of this botanical are quite limited. In vitro, phenolic and flavonoid compounds of miracle fruit demonstrate antioxidant activity (2) (3). Preliminary studies in humans have looked into the plant’s ability to stimulate weight loss (5). In a pilot study, some 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 described in another small study (12). Large clinical trials are needed to confirm this effect.

Purported Uses
  • Low-calorie sweetener
  • Alter taste changes caused by chemotherapy
Mechanism of Action

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 proliferation of human melanoma cells via free-radical scavenging activity and by inhibiting tyrosinase (3).

Contraindications
  • Allergy or sensitivity to any of the constituents.
Adverse Reactions
  • Stomach ache and throat discomfort have been reported (6).
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
References
  1. Kurihara K, Beidler LM. Taste-modifying protein from miracle fruit. Science. Sep 20 1968;161(3847):1241-1243.
  2. Inglett GE, Chen D. Contents of phenolics and flavonoids and antioxidant activities in skin, pulp, and seeds of miracle fruit. J Food Sci. Apr 2011;76(3):C479-482.
  3. Wang YC, Hong ZL, Chen HA, et al. Bioconstituents from stems of Synsepalum dulcificum Daniell (Sapotaceae) inhibit human melanoma proliferation, reduce mushroom tyrosinase activity and have antioxidant properties. J Taiwan Inst Chem E. 2011;42:204-211.
  4. Chen CC, Liu IM, Cheng JT. Improvement of insulin resistance by miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) in fructose-rich chow-fed rats. Phytother Res. Nov 2006;20(11):987-992.
  5. Wong JM, Kern M. Miracle fruit improves sweetness of a low-calorie dessert without promoting subsequent energy compensation. Appetite. Feb 2011;56(1):163-166.
  6. Soares HP, Schwartz MA, Pizzolato JF, et al. Treatment of taste alterations in chemotherapy patients using the “miracle fruit”: Preliminary analysis of a pilot study. J Clin Oncol, 28, 2010 (suppl; abstr e19523).
  7. Theerasilp S, Hitotsuya H, Nakajo S, et al. Complete amino acid sequence and structure characterization of the taste-modifying protein, miraculin. J Biol Chem. Apr 25 1989;264(12):6655-6659.
  8. Koizumi A, Tsuchiya A, Nakajima K, et al. Human sweet taste receptor mediates acid-induced sweetness of miraculin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 4 2011;108(40):16819-16824.
  9. Kurihara K, Beidler LM. Mechanism of the action of taste-modifying protein. Nature. Jun 21 1969;222(5199):1176-1179.
  10. Paladino A, Colonna G, Facchiano AM, et al. Functional hypothesis on miraculin’ sweetness by a molecular dynamics approach. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Jun 4 2010;396(3):726-730.
  11. Paladino A, Costantini S, Colonna G, et al. Molecular modelling of miraculin: Structural analyses and functional hypotheses. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Feb 29 2008;367(1):26-32.
  12. Wilken MK, Satiroff BA. Pilot study of “miracle fruit” to improve food palatability for patients receiving chemotherapy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2012 Oct;16(5):E173-7.
  13. Misaka T. Molecular mechanisms of the action of miraculin, a taste-modifying protein. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2013 Mar;24(3):222-5.
  14. Du L, Shen Y, Zhang X, Prinyawiwatkul W, Xu Z. Antioxidant-rich phytochemicals in miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum) and antioxidant activity of its extracts. Food Chem. 2014 Jun 15;153:279-84.
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