Nutrition compounds discovered in pure maple syrup by University of Rhode Island researcher.
University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.
Pure Maple Syrup Health Benefits
At the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. the URI assistant pharmacy professor told scientists from around the world that his URI team has now isolated and identified 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup from Quebec, five of which have never been seen in nature.
"I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it," Seeram said. "It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses."
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Future Medication from Pure Maple Syrup?
These discoveries of new molecules from nature can also provide chemists with leads that could prompt synthesis of medications that could be used to fight fatal diseases, Seeram said.
"We know that the compounds are anti-inflammatory agents and that inflammation has been implicated in several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s," Seeram said.
Pure Maple Syrup Nutrition and Diabetes Research
As part of his diabetes research, Seeram has collaborated with Chong Lee, professor of nutrition and food sciences in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The scientists have found that maple syrup phenolics, the beneficial anti-oxidant compounds, inhibit two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to Type 2 diabetes management.
The irony of finding a potential anti-diabetes compound in a sweetener is not lost on Seeram. "Not all sweeteners are created equal," he said.
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New Nutrients Discovered In Pure Maple Syrup
Among the five new compounds is Quebecol, a compound created when a farmer boils off the water in maple sap to get maple syrup. It takes 40 liters (20.5 gallons) of sap to make 1 liter (2 pints) of syrup.
"Quebecol has a unique chemical structure or skeleton never before identified in nature," Seeram said. "I believe the process of concentrating the maple sap into maple syrup is what creates Quebecol. There is beneficial and interesting chemistry going on when the boiling process occurs. I believe the heat forms this unique compound."
Seeram said he and his team chose the common name of Quebecol for the new compound to honor the province of Quebec in Canada, which leads the worldwide production of maple syrup. Seeram’s research was supported by the Conseil pour le developpement de l’agriculture du Quebec (CDAQ) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on behalf of the Canadian maple syrup industry.
"As we continued our research in the past year, we were astonished when the number of beneficial compounds that we isolated is now more than double the original amount," said Seeram.
International Conference on Natural Sweeteners
Seeram is the organizer of the daylong symposium on "Bioactives in Natural Sweeteners," and is joined by scientists from Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States to discuss natural sweeteners. Seeram’s collaborations with Angela Slitt, assistant professor of biomedical sciences in URI’s College of Pharmacy and Professor Lee, will also be presented during the meeting.
Seeram’s findings will be detailed in his article recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Functional Foods. The title of the paper is "Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup."
In addition, Seeram and Lee’s work on diabetes and maple syrup will also be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Functional Foods.
Pure Maple Syrup Has Nutrients Like Berries, Tea and Flaxseed
"I can guarantee you that few, if any, other natural sweeteners have this anti-oxidant cocktail of beneficial compounds; it has some of the beneficial compounds that are found in berries, some that are found in tea and some that are found in flaxseed. People may not realize it, but while we have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our food chain, maple syrup is the single largest consumed food product that is entirely obtained from the sap of trees," Seeram said.
Reiterating a statement he made last year, Seeram said no one is suggesting that people consume large quantities of maple syrup, but that if they are going to use a sweetener on their pancakes, they should choose pure maple syrup and not the commercial products with high fructose corn syrup.
"Pure maple syrup is not only delicious, it is so much better for you," Seeram said.
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“Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup” Liya Li, Navindra P. Seeram, Journal of Functional Foods, Available online 12 March 2011, doi:10.1016/j.jff.2011.02.004
Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, United States
Source: University of Rhode Island