Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Zoey. Zoey Wonders, “How do Miracle Berries Work? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Zoey!
Do you have a favorite sweet food? We bet you love biting into a sweet, juicy lemon. How about munching on some sugary-sweet celery? Our favorite is a tall glass of pickle juice. It’s so sweet, we can hardly take it!
Wait. What do you mean, none of those things taste sweet? Lemons and pickle juice are sour? Celery is bland? Maybe that’s because you haven’t tried them with a miracle berry yet.
For many years, miracle berries have made sour foods taste sweet. And they do so without sugar. How can they do that? Are they magic?
Not quite. A protein called miraculin is to thank for the miracle berry’s special effect. When a person bites down on a miracle berry, the protein sticks to their taste buds. Once in the mouth, it stays on the taste buds for about an hour.
During that hour, miraculin affects the taste of any food the person eats. The change is more obvious with sour or acidic foods. They interact with the protein, confusing the taste buds. This causes the brain to think that normally sour foods are very sweet.
For a while during the 1970s, miraculin seemed ready to replace sugar in many American foods. And why not? Imagine eating a slice of cake that contained no sugar. How about a sugarless soda that still tasted sweet? Maybe a bag full of sugarless candy that tasted just like the real stuff?
Even better, a man named Robert Harvey believed miracle berries could improve many people’s health. He started a company called Miralin. His goal was to make and sell a line of sugar-free foods made with miraculin. Harvey believed his products would help reduce obesity. They would also be safe for people with diabetes, for whom sugary sweets can be dangerous.
But it was not to be. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t approve miracle berries as food additives. A popular conspiracy theory claims that this was the work of the sugar and artificial sweetener industry. It says they paid FDA employees to stop Miralin in its tracks. Both parties deny this claim. Still, many, including Robert Harvey, believe it to be true.
Today, people can buy miracle berries in some restaurants and cafes. However, they are still not legal to use as food additives. Until that’s changed, the protein miraculin will not be a legal sugar substitute.
Would you like to try a miracle berry? What foods would you test it out on? Do you dream of sugarless sodas and desserts made with miraculin? What would they taste like? Maybe one day you’ll be able to find out for yourself.
Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.R.10