Miracle Berry Can Help Lower Sugar Content Of Sour Drinks

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 | 870 Views

The miracle berry from Africa, otherwise known as Synsepalum dulcificum, contains a protein called miraculin which is able to suppress sourness and elicit a sweet flavour. This could have some potential in reducing sugar content of sour drinks.

While under its effect, sour flavours have been known to taste completely different. Vinegar is known to taste like sweet treacle, while Guiness stout tastes like chocolate milkshake.

The protein could have uses apart from the novelty factor, according to researchers writing for Appetite. One potential mainstream use is the reduction of sugar consumption, especially sour beverages.

Scientists from the University of Lavras in Brazil explored the feasibility of the miracle berry as a sugar substitute by comparing unsweetened lemonade as a control; lemonade with an ideal amount of sugar (13.4 percent); lemonade sweetened with sucralose (0.022 percent) and 300 mg of miracle berry eaten before the unsweetened lemonade.

The amount of miracle berry had been decided before the test in accordance with the producer’s recommendations, as well as input from a focus group.

The 17 participants reported that drinking lemonade after eating 300 mg of miracle berry resulted in a sweet taste profile similar to that of sucrose.

“Miracle fruit performed in a manner similar to sugar and sucralose, reducing sourness in lemonade. Moreover, among the sweeteners used (sugar, sucralose and miracle fruit) after 15 seconds of lemonade ingestion, miracle fruit was the sweetener that reduced the intensity of lemonade sourness the most.”

“Through this study, we observed that miracle fruit seems to be a great sugar substitute in sour beverages, as it is a natural product that confers a sweet flavour and reduces sourness, besides presenting a sensory profile similar to sucralose.”

Two main drawbacks hinder miraculin’s use as a sweetener, however.

Firstly, even though its taste-changing effect occurs immediately, it cannot be mixed in with the product beforehand, and has to be consumed before drinking the beverage.

Secondly, all foods that are slightly sour will have their tastes changed for some time after ingestion.

“Although lemonade is sometimes consumed alone, it may be part of a meal in which other sour things (such as pickles) would have substantially changed flavour profiles. Therefore, future studies assessing consumer perceptions and regarding better sensory characterisation of the effects of miracle fruit on different products should be carried out.”

Another fruit from Africa also has potential as a sugar substitute.

A sweet-tasting, taste-modulating protein called thaumatin consists of a single chain of 207 amino acid residues. Derived from the fruit of a West African tropical plant called Thaumatococcus danielli, it is around 100,000 times sweeter than sucrose, and can only be perceived by humans and primates.

The protein is also able to mask bitterness, and combining it with stevia has been able to remove lingering liquorice-like aftertaste caused by steviol glycosides.