Monday evening I started eating dinner and from the first bite, things tasted weird. I asked my husband if his vegetables (not kale) tasted okay and he said it was fine. I noticed everything had an odd bitter, metallic taste to it and just assumed I had eaten something that had thrown my taste buds off.
By Tuesday, I was still experiencing a problem. I didn't notice it in the morning, but by afternoon my apple tasted weird and, again, my dinner was even more bitter and metallic. I thought maybe it had to do with some new supplements I started taking and was a little concerned that it might be something more physical.
I know some nutritional deficiencies or a little too much of something can throw off your sense of taste. Since I had spent a good part of the afternoon trying to decipher a bunch of wonky lab results for my toxin body burden testing for my book (hello tungsten and molybdenum, why are you so high?), I figured anything was game.
So, I went to my trusty Google to see what I could find. I ran into a number of people claiming they had the same problem after eating pine nuts. Pine nuts! I had loaded up my kale on Sunday with pine nuts to make it a more substantial meal. According to wikipedia:
A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects... Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as "pine mouth". This is a relatively newly noticed phenomenon.
The Nestle Research Centre has hypothesized that a particular species of Chinese pine nuts is the cause of the problem. The suspect species of pine nuts are smaller, duller, and more rounded than typical pine nuts. This agrees with the findings of ødevarestyrelsen (Danish food ministry), which ties the symptoms to "illegitimate" nuts from Pinus armandii (Chinese white pine) and Pinus massoniana (Chinese red pine), which have a different fatty acid than "genuine" pine nuts, being mixed with "genuine" pine nuts in China to meet export demands.
Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases are self-limited and resolve without treatment.
This does bring up the issue of food safety. This isn't the first time we've seen Chinese products "padded" with filler foods. When we buy nuts, we always buy in bulk and choose organic, but we don't have that option at the store we frequent for pine nuts. I suspect that we got a batch of pseudo-pine nuts because I've never had this happen before.
This apparently has become an emerging problem over the last few years with it peaking this last summer. In the UK, the Food Standards Agency is looking into the issue. As to be expected, in spite of complaints, the FDA is sitting on its hands.
The pine nuts I ate are relatively fresh, so I know that rancidity (which is an issue with these high fat tasty little nuts) isn't the problem. In any case, I thought I'd share my experience with you in case you buy pine nuts for the pesto I'm sure you make from all that basil you grow in the summer. I tell you, though, I'm going to be leary about the pine nuts I buy in the future. Several weeks of pine mouth is really unpleasant. Although it could be the next popular diet aid since it makes everything taste nasty.
Have you ever experienced pine mouth? Or even heard of it?