A perfectly ripe pineapple can be a hassle to find and carve, but once you’ve reached those golden rings, you’ve got the perfect summer companion. From piña coladas to pizza, it can be hard to get rid of the sweetness – until the inside of your mouth starts to feel strangely raw.
If one bites too much Pineapple leave you with a tingling tongue, burning cheeks or a desperate desire to scratch the inside of your mouth, you’re not alone. The likely culprit is an enzyme complex called bromelain, according to a 2019 letter in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Bromelain is a protease – an enzyme that breaks down proteins into their building blocks, called amino acids – that is unique to pineapple, which is why pineapple is also a great meat tenderizer.
“Currently, there’s not much evidence about bromelain’s palatability, or how the enzyme tastes and feels in your mouth,” says Alessandro Colletti, a bromelain pharmacologist at the University of Turin in Italy. But maybe after eating a few pieces of pineapple, you’ll start to feel bromelain break down some of the mucin protein that makes up the protective lining in your mouth.
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So, if you dive into fruit salads, will eating too much pineapple do any harm? Colletti said. He notes that bromelain is not dangerous to humans (although it is a effective defense against pests and diseases of pineapple). “When you eat pineapple, the concentration of bromelain is about 500 micrograms/ml,” he says. “So the concentration is really not high.” It is even safe in much higher concentrations. For example, bromelain oral gel, which is 200 to 400 times more concentrated than fresh pineapple, can be applied directly to the mouth because its anti-inflammatory properties can offset mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapyColletti said.
Furthermore, your mouth quickly begins to replace any cells damaged by bromelain to prevent any permanent damage or changes caused by pineapple protease, as reported by Bon Appétit.
Other tropical fruits, such as papaya, have similar proteases but don’t leave a raw feeling in the mouth. Paul Takistov, associate professor of food engineering at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, said: Self. Pineapple typically falls between 3 and 4 on the pH scale (a score of 7 is neutral), according to Healthline. Takhistov theorizes that bromelain dissolves some of the mucin proteins in your mouth, making your mouth more sensitive to irritation caused by pineapple’s acidity. Actually the two together, acidity and enzymes, can give you a sore mouth. Colletti adds that bromelain itself can have a sour taste, which can add to the sour feeling.
On how to get over the itch, in an episode of Netflix Ugly delicious, a man in Mexico told Danish chef René Redzepi to soak a peeled pineapple in brine. However, there is not much scientific evidence to back this up. You can also bake the pineapple or heat it in some other way, because heat inactivates the enzymes, Bon Appétit reports.
And if you want to get the benefits of bromelain, such as its antioxidant properties, Colletti says taking a supplement is best. That way, you’ll get a higher concentration of bromelain without all the sugar that makes pineapple so sweet.
Originally published on Live Science.
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