Berry grown in South Florida helps COVID-19 patients with loss of taste

Miracle Fruit discovered first to help chemotherapy patients

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Some people who become infected with COVID 19 experience an unexpected side effect-the loss of taste.

It happened to Local10′s own Nicole Perez when she was diagnosed with the virus in early July.

”It almost got to a point where you don’t look forward to eating because you couldn’t taste anything,” Perez said. 

But a tiny berry, grown here in South Florida, could make a difference for people like Perez who lose their sense of taste while battling the novel coronavirus.

”They could have better nutrition, enjoy their food, improve their immune systems dramatically so they can combat this virus a lot better,” said Dr. Lionel Resnick with the Rare Fruit Council.

Baptist Health System has been using the berry, called “Miracle Fruit,” to help cancer patients who lose their sense of taste due to chemotherapy treatments.

”This little berry, what it does is it has a glycoprotein called miraculins and it has both flavor enhancing capabilities and flavor masking capabilities,” said Carla Araya, Registered Dietician with Baptist Health.

Araya said that biting into the berry, or using a berry-based supplement, and letting it dissolve on your tongue is all it takes to get the process started.

”You don’t swallow or eat it, you just let it coat the taste buds,” she said. “That’s what brings them back to life.”

The key is to add something acidic to what you eat or drink in order to awaken the taste buds.

”If you drank club soda and a hint of lime it would taste like Sprite or 7-Up.  Yogurt can taste like vanilla pudding so it’s got that enhancer factor.  It’s a really neat fruit,” Araya said.

Perez said she would have been curious to try it but she’s just glad she’s fully recovered and doing what she loves.

”I don’t feel tired, I’m back to myself again,” she said.

If the Miracle Fruit can help with loss of taste due to chemo, experts say it’s reasonable to believe it could help in cases of COVID-19 but it doesn’t work for everyone.

Araya said about 30 to 40 percent of Baptist Health cancer patients experience a benefit from Miracle Fruit.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.