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The pineapple. Sweet, juicy, and kind of painful. What is it about this tropical fruit that seems to bite us back?

Hosted by: Hank Green

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[♪ INTRO].

Ah, the pineapple. One of my very favorites.

So sweet, juicy, and also painful. Because this tropical sensation can leave you with a kind of raw, burning feeling in your mouth. Because when you are eating pineapple, it is eating you back.

See, pineapple contains a substance called bromelain. It’s like a cocktail of different mouth eaters because it contains a bunch of enzymes that breaks down things like cellulose and proteins. And it’s those protein-breaking enzymes, or proteases, in particular that wreak havoc for your mouth.

Because both the saliva that lubricates your teeth, tongue, and cheeks, and the actual mouth flesh itself are made of proteins. So, it’s sort of chewing up that flesh...auch! Bromelain breaks down those proteins and exposes your mouth bits to pineapple’s acidic juices, making it extra irritating.

But it’s not like pineapple keeps chomping away at you all through your digestive system. Stomach acid breaks the enzyme down and reduces its activity. And if you thought that only the pineapple’s fruity part eats your mouth, well, we got bad news for you.

Bromelain is also found in pineapple stems, which actually has more protein-digesting power than fruit. Which can be quite useful when you want it to eat away at something. Say, like using leftover pineapple pulp to make an anti-plaque toothpaste.

Scientists have observed that bromelain has a host of other potential uses too, including as a treatment for osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases, viral infections, burns, and breast cancer. But exactly how it works is still a little unclear. As an anti-inflammatory, it might decrease the number of amino acids that promote inflammation.

Or it might fight cancer by triggering the bodys’ immune response to make molecules that signal cancer cells to die. But if that sounds really good to you, maybe don’t go downing like ten straight pineapples just yet. The majority of these studies have been done in rodents, so scientists recommend more clinical studies if we want to get serious about bromelain as a therapy.

So although researchers don’t know everything about what makes pineapple so special, it is doing a bit of good. Even if at the same time it is destroying your mouth just a little. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow!

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