Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pine Nut Bitter Taste

After practicing medicine for 25 years, I didn't think there was much I hadn't seen or diagnosed.  Was I surprised to learn about a condition called Pine Mouth from a friend who experienced it!  Of course that sent me to the internet where I learned that there truly is a weird food syndrome known as Pine Mouth.  And from the google search, it seems everyone but me knows about it!  In case you don't, here is what I found:

For reasons that are not understood, some people experience a persistent bitter-metallic taste after eating pine nuts (aka: pignoli if you live in Italy).  This taste can last a few days or up to two weeks.  Nothing tastes good because the bitter taste permeates the mouth.  It isn't a "disease", nor does it cause any illness...just an annoying taste.

The medical term for this metallogeusia, "a perceived metallic or bitter taste" and it was reported on in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.  One theory is that some Chinese Red Pine imports are inedible and have made it into the market.  Pine Mouth seems to be a relatively new phenomenon so this theory makes sense.

There isn't much a consumer can do to prevent Pine Mouth.   All pine nuts look alike and there are no tell-tell signs.  The good news is that the condition is self limited and normal taste finally resumes.

Have any of you readers had Pine Mouth?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Recently I had a strong metallic taste and wondered what terrible disease I might have! after some internet research I stumbled on an article on pine nuts and how they can leave a metallic tasteafter. I couldn't believe it...I phad never heard of such a thing before. I was very relieved, since just a few days before had eaten pine nuts! thank goodness for the internet!

abnormalfacies said...

Thankfully, with the economy and the prohibitive cost of pignoli, it's unlikely we'll have an epidemic on our hands :D

Jim

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

Thanks for teaching me a new power word!

CountryMidwife said...

SO interesting! I had a terrible taste in my mouth recently, it probably lasted 10 days but was intermittent. I was also just over a virus with major fever, and significant lip chapping b/c I couldn't stay hydrated. But it was WAY different than anything I'd ever experienced, and I DID have a lot of pine nuts a few days prior.. hmmmm...

Chris said...

I too had the foul, bitter taste in my mouth, usually when I tried to eat something. After 3 days I hopped on the internet and typed in "bitter taste in mouth" and up popped numerous articles about pine nuts. Just before the bitter taste started I bought some pine nuts in bulk and ate all of them.
It was actually a relief to find out nothing was wrong. But the taste! I won't ever forget it.

Anonymous said...

This researcher seems to have tracked down the culprit: certain varieties of Pinus armandii nuts from certain regions of China.

Anonymous said...

I've been a doctor for over 35 years and had never heard of it either!
I ate pine nuts about a week ago and the bitter taste hasn't yet gone. Relieved to know it's self limiting. It has completely wrecked my palate. Was wondering if I had some tumour affecting my taste pathway!
I eat a lot of pine nute, but haven't had any from Marks and Spencer before, which is, I think, where these came from. Think we have another packet of them so will go and check.
Andy

Anonymous said...

I ate fewer than a dozen pine nuts 3 days ago. Beginning this morning, everything I've tried to eat tasted like it was soaked in cleaning chemicals. I threw away my breakfast burrito half-eaten thinking it was poisoned. When my Pho soup for lunch had the exact same chemical taste, I suspected there was something wrong with my mouth. Just had dinner I cooked myself. Same taste. The pine nuts I ate were new, fresh, and labeled "may have come from spain, portugal, or china." My money is on China.

Anonymous said...

I had the same bitter taste in my mouth for the last coouple of days.
I live in canada and I always buy pine nuts from costco and I never felt that before. but I was in the US lately and I went to costco and bought a bag of the chinese pine nuts. And for the last couple of days, I didnt enjoy any of my meals. everything tasted bitter and weird.
finally I went on the internet today and to my surprise, I learned that it was the pine nuts who are causing me this and that there are other people who are experiencing this too. Thnak God for the internet. Now I'm so happy it is some bad disease or anything like that :)

J. Evans said...

After watching a recent Dr Oz, and learning the nutritional benefits of pine nuts,I purchased pine nuts from TRADER JOES in California. 6/2/11 I even stored them in a tightly sealed bag in the freezer, only to take out a large handful 3 days in a row. I am so miserable right now, with this vile taste in my mouth and pounding headache. I was relived to find the cause on the internet, as I thought symptoms so profound must be caused by a terrible disease! I was however furious to learn that this has been going on for years and these tainted pine nuts are still being sold! I called the FDA and they said they were absolutely aware of the problem, but that most people who suffer from "pinemouth" don't report it to the FDA. He said that if everybody reported the problem, more time and effort would go into solving the problem. I URGE EVERYBODY WHO HAS THIS HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE TO CALL THE FDA IN THEIR STATE!

Anonymous said...

BINGO, I ate oatmeal this morning and after playing some tennis tried to eat a protein bar. tasted like cleaning chemicals or metal. thought it was bad. came home made a peanut butter sandwhich, same taste. Have been eating nuts in a mixture with yogurt to increase the protein. have been eating them for weeks. I guess i got either too many or the wrong kind

Anonymous said...

I toasted some pine nuts to serve on a salad with mixed greens and strawberries. I had quite a few left over and snacked on a handful today and by this afernoon the back of my tounge had the most bitter sensation that I have ever had. The bitter taste had migrated to the front of my tounge and throughout my entire mouth. Was so relieved to find out that I am not alone with this. Sadly I had thrown out the bag the pine nuts came in. I agree with other folks, thankful for the internet!

Anonymous said...

I bought a bag of pine nuts (sourced from Korea, Viet Nam, or Russia) at Trader Joes this past Sunday, made pesto and ate a handful of these. The next morning something I ate tasted bitter and metallic. I thought it was something wrong with the food. Later that day I recalled reading about Chinese pine nuts. So, I am now on day 4 of this awful taste disturbance and dismayed that this could last weeks. My only solace was knowing that it wasn't neurological! I called FDA -- independent of the other person who recommended contacting them. They are gathering data and investigating the phenomenon. Call in to report your experiences with this: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm247099.htm

I also plan to contact Trader Joes -- at the corporate level -- to be sure that they hear loud and clear that their sourcing of this product is problematic

jgo said...

I am so glad I read this! I thought I had something serious. I guess the problem is we don't know for sure if there are any serious implications??? I had pine nuts in a salad brought over by a friend on Saturday. She shops at Trader Joes. I ate the salad Saturday and Sunday as well. I noticed a bad metallic taste in my mouth Tuesday morning. Thanks for the information! I just reported my issue to the FDA today. I hope everyone does the same.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I had a delicious meal of fettucine with pesto at a cute 'new age' type restaurant/coffee shop in Menominee, Michigan last weekend. When our orders came, it was very surprising that we both had about a quarter pound of pine nuts in our meal, as one usually receives a mere sprinkling. Thought perhaps I was being too suspicious, believing that perhaps someone was trying to unload some bad nuts. Since they tasted all right, we proceeded to enjoy a very tasty meal. Two days later, both of us began experiencing 'pine nut mouth', a bitter, metallic taste/aftertaste. My beloved coffee now tastes like cheap beer.
I had already known about 'pine nut mouth', as I work in the sensory department of a company. Do not know where the restaurant purchased their ingredients, but am glad we had the foreknowledge so as not to waste a trip to the doctor.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced the same thing and informed the FDA. Blah!

Anonymous said...

Curious as to why pine nuts don't cause bitter taste for everyone. Recently, my best friend, mother-in-law and I ate the exact same thing...fettucini with pesto and pine nuts. Within a day everything my mother-in-law and I put in our mouths tasted like metal. I researched the cause, discovered the pine nut correlation and phoned my mother-in-law. When I touched base with my friend to see if she was experiencing the same thing she said no, she was fine. Love pine nuts but think I'll avoid them for awhile!!!

Trethor said...

Great article. I have had the taste in my mouth for about 5 days now...was kinda worried til I saw this. I had homemade pesto two nights in a row, so Im thinking that did me in!Pine nuts were from trader joes. Mouth definitely seems like there are chemicals, only when I eat.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! I wondered about bitter taste in my mouth and then googled up on internet. Pine mouth was the first thing on search engine and then it struck me BINGO! I've started sprinkling pine nuts on my salad for last three days and then last night I had a pizza and was surprised that it tasted so bad. I thought maybe it was contaminated with chemical. I had cereal this morning and couldn't even get rid of bitter taste. The only thing I could eat was salad with red wine vinegar without suffering the bad tastes. It was really nasty. I was getting worried that it could be a sign of bigger problem like cancer. But thank god its just Pine Mouth. Internet doesn't just happen on its own, its happening because of you and I ARE sharing the information. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! I wondered about bitter taste in my mouth and then googled up on internet. Pine mouth was the first thing on search engine and then it struck me BINGO! I've started sprinkling pine nuts on my salad for last three days and then last night I had a pizza and was surprised that it tasted so bad. I thought maybe it was contaminated with chemical. I had cereal this morning and couldn't even get rid of bitter taste. The only thing I could eat was salad with red wine vinegar without suffering the bad tastes. It was really nasty. I was getting worried that it could be a sign of bigger problem like cancer. But thank god its just Pine Mouth. Internet doesn't just happen on its own, its happening because of you and I ARE sharing the information. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for all the posts. I thought there is something REALLY wrong with my liver or gall bladder. I had homemade pesto with pine nuts some days ago but this awful taste is very hard to take. Everything tastes bitter and I don't feel like eating anything.

Anonymous said...

I once got rid of an old refrigerator because everything in it tasted metallic, even the butter. This was about 8 years ago (2003), but now I WONDER if I had eaten any pine nuts..???

Cristina said...

I am a lawyer in San Francisco and we are looking for individuals who have experienced an aftertaste or other adverse reactions from eating Pine Nuts from Trader Joe’s. Particularly, we are seeking San Francisco Bay Area folks who can provide us with information about when and where they purchased the pine nuts, the symptoms they experienced, whether they still have the pine nuts, and whether they saw a warning on the package of pine nuts. If you can provide any information, please contact me at cristina.rubke@sflaw.com.

Linda said...

Can't believe this has been going on so long and Trader Joe's is still selling them. Had they taken them off the shelves, I would not be going through this as I bought them in MA on 8/20/11.

Linda said...

Can't believe Trader Joe's has not pulled this product as this has been going on for so long. Had they done this, I would not be experiencing "pine mouth". I purchased their pine nuts 8/20/11 in Hadley, Mass.

Linda said...

After contacting Trader Joe's, I did not receive a reasonable response. I am now sending my e-mails to both the TJ corporate headquarters in Monrovia, CA and Needham, MA. They seem to make responding difficult. I am using snail mail. The FDA also has returned my call and taken my information. I hope no one else has to suffer these symptoms without, at least a warning on the product.

Anonymous said...

Just started suffering from this. Never heard of it until today. Ate pine nuts for the first time at home three days ago and the bitter taste started yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that i have suffered this several times and now find it happens practically EVERY time i now eat pinenuts. The taste is foul and seems to last longer with each attack. Think i going to have to give up these yummy little snacks altogether.

backflip23 said...

Have Trader Joe pine nuts headache and that bitter taste in my mouth, still have some pine nuts left, never want to have any more again, thought it was a small titanium partical placed in my breast 2 weeks ago from a biopsy location, but I have been eating these pine nuts all week thought some taste bad, but had more and they tasted fine so I kept having more? In the nevada area, pine nuts purchased in carson city nv.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Who would have thought?! I, too, as experiencing that horrible metallic taste (it's ruining my wine). Ought to help with the weight loss for the next few days though. Thank you so much for sharing this info. I was also ready to go to the doctor after eating pesto and having a dozen or so pignoli nuts on my salad 2 days ago.

Anonymous said...

love pine nuts. use to buy them from cold storage. never had any problem till recently. bought some from Woolworths. gave me a bitter after taste. still suffering from that. thought it was zinc deficiency but remembered I had pine nuts. anyone found a cure fir the bitter after taste yet?

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased pine nuts from trader Joes, which I have done many times in the past and never had a problem. But this time a couple of days after eating them I too experienced a bitter taste. I thought maybe I had a sinus infection but when I searched on line I learned about this problem with pine nuts. I also had a bad headache with it. There is a warning on the bag of nuts about this problem but I chose to ignore it since I have been eating pine nuts for years and never had this problem. However, I did notice that these particular nuts did had a different taste than others that I have eaten. I will report this to the FDA.