Look, I am all for reducing the amount of sugar found in processed foods. But this new product– pending approval in the US (already approved elsewhere) is actually bitter-taste receptor-blocking fungi (mycelium). It’s added to a sugary food—chocolate, for instance– and temporarily blocks the bitter receptors, making the need for sugar content much lower. This fungi powder will be listed under the dubious catch-all “natural flavors” so we won’t know it’s been added (although I’m sure we’ll be tipped off by the lower sugar of a given food….)
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. Read about its many remarkable uses– it’s an amazing bioremediator (can absorb and remove environmental toxins). Buuuuuuut lets think before we jump into adding this as a hidden additive. For the majority of us, consuming clean-sourced mycelium is probably a non-issue. But for some of our more environmentally sensitive patients, are we looking at yet another new, hidden food reaction? I’m not sure.
Furthermore, taste receptors are located in diverse areas outside of the oral cavity and initiate complex downstream signaling cascades. Bitter taste receptors in the stomach can alert to toxin exposure and promote repulsion to a particular bitter food, and may promote decreased food ingestion and the feeling of satiety. Conversely, sweet taste receptors on enteroendocrine cells promote a cascade of hormones that ultimately results in increased glucose absorption and insulin release. (Incidentally, a fructose/glucose combination pushes this even further). Not surprisingly, artificial sweeteners also bind sweet taste receptors, stimulating increased glucose absorption.
Interestingly, the herb Gymnema sylvestre has a 2000-year history in Aruvedic medicine, with one indication being for diabetes. Prepared as a tea, Gymnema elicits a powerful, short-term block of lingual sweet taste receptors. Not only will this alter the direct experience of sweet taste, but it’s also been shown to slow glucose uptake and insulin release, which I would expect has something to do with binding the enteroendocrine sweet receptors as well.
What about the impact of binding bitter receptors? Might we see a rebound increased appetite? I would suspect yes, given that activation of bitter taste receptors promotes satiation.
Let’s stay tuned on this one. Thoughts?