Will maple syrup be the next super food? See the science and take advantage of the health benefits of this proudly local natural food.
Can pure maple syrup help reduce chronic inflammation?
A new University of Rhode Island study revealed the presence of inulin, a type of carbohydrate recently discovered for the first time in maple syrup. Inulin is a complex carbohydrate (natural dietary fiber) that acts as a prebiotic and works to encourage the growth of “good” or beneficial bacteria in the gut. Inulin joins the other beneficial polyphenols, vitamins and minerals already identified in pure maple syrup. This latest discovery could allow maple to be classified as a functional food.
In addition, a new study conducted on animals focused on the beneficial effect of a symbiotic (prebiotic and probiotic) maple sap drink in recovering gut flora balance, which may have been lost for several reasons, including treatment with antibiotics.
This year, two newly discovered additional compounds with antioxidant properties and potential health benefits have been identified in the lignan’s family, bringing the total count of known phytonutrients in maple products to 65. This may help support discoveries made over the past few years on the inherent properties of maple syrup from Canada that comes directly from the sap of the maple tree, making it an all-natural product with unique health benefits. Discovered in 2011, a unique, polyphenolic molecule in maple syrup, Quebecol, and one of its analogues (isoquebecol, recently synthesized), have demonstrated that it significantly decreases the production of inflammation mediators.
Could a pure maple syrup extract be tapped for better brain health?
Preliminary results of recent studies revealed at the annual conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS) revealed that an extract of maple syrup Canada showed promising results in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s. Maple syrup has now joined the ranks of blueberries, walnuts, green tea and curcumin, namely, in the list of nutrients that are potential allies in protecting brain.
One study presented by Dr. Donald Weaver, of the Krembil Research Institute at the University of Toronto, found that pure maple syrup extract may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells – beta amyloid and tau peptide. When cellular proteins fold improperly and clump together, they accumulate and form the plaque that is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.
The other research presented at the symposium showed that a pure maple syrup extract prevented the fibrillation (tangling) of beta amyloid proteins and exerted neuroprotective effects in rodent’s microglial brain cells. Scientists have found that a decrease in microglial brain cell function is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems. The maple syrup extract also prolonged the lifespan of an Alzheimer’s roundworm model in vivo. The study was conducted out of the University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with researchers at Texas State University, and was led by Dr. Navindra P. Seeram, the symposium’s organizer.
Is maple syrup a better option than other sweeteners for controlling blood sugar levels?
New studies by Dr. Marette (Laval University and INAF, Canada), Dr. Abe (University of Tokyo, Japan) and their teams are showing that maple syrup is a sweetener with unique properties. Laboratory research thus far has demonstrated that maple has a significant and positive effect on controlling blood sugar levels and insulin resistance compared with white sugar.
In addition, Dr. Seeram (University of Rhodes Island, United States) and his team recently reported the discovery of nine additional polyphenols in maple syrup, with antioxidant properties comparable to those of red wine, tea and berries, which now brings the total of phytonutrients in this all-natural product to 63.
Collectively, the different compounds found in maple syrup could explain all the benefits observed to date. The next and long-awaited phase of the program will involve conducting studies on human subjects to try and confirm these observations.
Advantages of consuming 100% pure maple syrup compared to other sweetening agents
Maple syrup contains a significant amount of phytohormones of the abscisic acid (ABA) family, a molecule that may help against the onset of insulin resistance. Furthermore, a recent analysis has also shown that the amount of polyphenols found in maple syrup is approximately five times greater than quantities found in honey, brown rice syrup and corn syrup, and 400 times greater than in agave syrup. Several studies have posited that consuming polyphenols regularly could have a positive impact on metabolic health, among other benefits.
Maple water, the sole ingredient in maple syrup, contains a whole cocktail of compounds that are vital to the life of the tree—46 to be exact. But that's not all. The leaves and even the bark of the maple tree are made up of compounds that could be beneficial to health. Ginallines, maplexins, saccharumosides... Their scholarly names may sound like pure science, but their natural benefits sound like good old common sense. The growing understanding of maple suggests that it may indeed one day contribute to the pharmacopeia.
In contrast with other sugars that are not recommended for diabetics, maple water and syrup contain a phytohormone, abscisic acid, which may play a therapeutic role in managing diabetes and metabolic functions. This phytohormone stimulates the release of insulin by pancreatic cells, increases the sensitivity of fat cells and encourages the absorption of sugars by the muscles. According to studies currently underway, it may therefore help the body metabolize the sugar in maple.
Another study, this one at the University of Tokyo, suggests that maple syrup may promote a healthy liver. It seems that maple inhibits certain genes linked to the production of ammonia, which is harmful to the liver. These discoveries, while preliminary, are one more reason to prefer maple when choosing a sweetener.
Have you heard of Quebecol?
Discovered during a study conducted at the University of Rhode Island in the United States, Quebecol is a polyphenol unique to maple, named—you guessed it—in honour of Quebec. This polyphenol forms when maple water is boiled to make syrup. Further research will tell us whether it too can promote good health in its own unique way.
In addition to carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, maple syrup and the products made from it also contain phenolic compounds present in its natural state. In a recent study on maple products, Quebec researchers showed that these substances have antioxidant powers.
For years we have known that maple products are superior to ordinary sweeteners because they are rich in vitamins, minerals and phenolic compounds. Now science is making advances in maple research and discovering even more.
Maple products provide essential vitamins and minerals
Maple products offer significant nutritional value. A 60 ml (1/4 cup) serving of maple syrup fulfils more than 100% of your daily requirement of manganese, 37% of riboflavin, 18% of zinc, 7% of magnesium and 5% of calcium and potassium.