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Fungus Additive Tricks Your Mouth Into Tasting Sweeter Foods

Sugar has become the new boogeyman of the dieting world. Sugar and sugar substitutes such as high fructose corn syrup are in almost every food on the market, from bread to beef jerky and even milk. Consuming all of this added sweetness comes with a price – namely, your health. Luckily, a Colorado-based startup has created a product that could reduce the amount of sugar manufacturers add to foods without affecting the taste or sweetness of your favorite products.

The added sugars in most foods are a leading contributor to worldwide obesity rates.

The added sugars in most foods are a leading contributor to worldwide obesity rates.

The product is the brainchild of MycoTechnology, a food additives manufacturer that aims to create “unique innovative ingredients that solve some of the toughest challenges in the food & beverage industry,” according to the company’s website. In a post on the company’s blog, MycoTechnology claims their mushroom-based bitter blocker can fill a void in the current food additives market in which consumers are leery of artificial or GMO ingredients:

Till [sic] recently there have been no known organic bitter blockers available on the market. It wasn’t until mid 2014 that MycoTechnology discovered the first of its kind. The certified USDA organic blocker is derived from a mushroom extract and used as a processing aid to effectively modulate a wide variety of substrates.

Their most recent additive works by binding to the bitter-sensing taste receptors on the tongue, blocking the tongue’s ability to taste bitterness. Since most companies add sugar or corn syrup to mask the natural bitterness of many foods such as cocoa, blocking the tongue’s bitterness receptors could enable food manufacturers to reduce added sugar while retaining overall sweetness. Thus, while not a sweetener per se, the mushroom powder still has the same effect as sugar.

Mycelium harvested from soil.

Mycelium harvested from soil.

This miracle product is a mushroom derivative grown from mycelium, the hair-like fungus fibers that make up most of the mass of mushrooms. The mycelium is collected in the wild and cultivated in a lab before being ground into a fine powder. Since the additive is technically all natural, the company is required to list it on ingredient labels simply as “natural flavor.”

Mycelium fibers

Mycelium fibers

Mycelium powder also has several uses as a soil additive to prevent erosion and in the breakdown of agricultural waste for composting. Hopefully, the fungus will have no unwanted side effects when used as a human food additive. A Cordyceps mutation that allows the zombie-creating fungus to incubate in humans sure would put me off of those Birthday Cake Oreos for at least a few months. But you know how it goes: if it’s sweet, I’m gonna eat.