Understanding Enzyme Behind Kiwi’s Tingly Taste

Wed Jul 03 2024
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ISLAMABAD: No matter the season, a big bowl of colourful fruit salad is always refreshing for everyone. The combination of juicy flavors can aid digestion, boost energy, and provide a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. Despite these benefits, some fruits can leave a bad taste—or feeling—in your mouth.

Certain fruits, like kiwi, can cause a tingling sensation on the tongue, lips, and throat. This discomfort is often due to the proteolytic enzyme actinidin found in green kiwis. This enzyme helps the fruit protect itself and also digests proteins in the human body, which our mouths are particularly sensitive to.

Other fruits with similar enzymes include pineapples, mangos, and papayas. The tingling may also be caused by oral allergy syndrome (OAS), or pollen-food allergy syndrome, where the immune system mistakes proteins in fruits and vegetables for pollen, leading to mild swelling, a scratchy throat, and an itchy mouth.

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Avoiding side effects when eating kiwis

Reactions to kiwi can also be due to a true food allergy, which can cause serious symptoms like rashes, abdominal pain, or difficulty breathing. If these occur, it’s best to avoid kiwis completely and be aware of their presence in other dishes, such as meat tenderizers.

For those without severe allergies, there are ways to enjoy kiwis with less irritation. Avoiding them when pollen counts are high, typically in spring and fall, can help minimize OAS symptoms. Peeling the skin, where proteins are concentrated, or cooking the fruit can also reduce irritation. Cooking, such as baking or air-frying, degrades the proteins and prevents cross-reactions, though it also reduces the fruit’s vitamin C and other nutrients.

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