Why Fresh Pineapple Burns
by Annie Shao, age 19
I felt my mouth and tongue burning after eating copious amounts of fresh
pineapple, I panicked. What if I am allergic to one of my favorite foods? When
will the tingling stop? As a biochemistry student, I guessed the burning might
have been caused by natural acids in the fruit, but nature had me fooled.
turns out that fresh pineapples contain bromelain, a mixture of two proteases,
which are enzymes that break down proteins. It can be found all over the plant,
but is most concentrated in the stem. Bromelain breaks down collagen, a long
protein that binds together human and animal tissue. In other words, bromelain
degrades your mouth’s cells.
don’t panic, there is no reason to stop eating fresh pineapple. The amount of
bromelain in pineapples can’t cause permanent damage because the human body
will regenerate the broken-down cells. Bromelain also cannot harm the human
digestive system because the enzyme will be denatured, or deactivated, by the
strong acid in the stomach.
is also used to tenderize meat. Meat, like the human tongue, has collagen that
holds the muscle tissue together. This can make certain meats very tough and
unpleasant to eat. Bromelain can be added prior to cooking to soften the meat.
The high temperatures from cooking will denature the bromelain, which is why
tenderized meat does not induce the same burning sensation that pineapple does.
But watch out—if the bromelain is left on the raw
meat for more than a day, the meat will get too mushy to be edible. If you ask
me, I’d take the collagen over mush.
is also a widely used herbal medicine. People use it to reduce swelling,
alleviate pain, and treat stomach problems. Some scientists even believe
bromelain contains compounds that prevent growth of tumor cells and slow blood
avoid the burning caused by eating pineapples, people opt for canned or cooked
pineapples, which no longer contain bromelain. I would rather brave the proteases’
corrosive effects than give up the sweet, fragrant taste of fresh pineapple.
[Sources: howstuffworks.com; MedlinePlus]