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Reduce diabetes risk with maple syrup

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Last Monday, I reported that agavins, natural sugars found in the agave plant can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, which runs from March 16 through March 20. At the same meeting, a full-day symposium was conducted by researchers from the US, Canada, Mexico, and Japan to review studies that examined the potential benefits of maple syrup and other natural sweeteners.

One animal study reported that maple syrup from Canada does not cause the same insulin spike as some other sugars. Other studies featured in the symposium also offered data that could benefit the health of all individuals, in addition to those suffering from type 2 diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome. The session was organized and chaired by Dr. Navindra Seeram, associate pharmacy professor at the University of Rhode Island whose research is focused on maple syrup. A summation of the studies’ results suggested that maple syrup’s unique cocktail of constituents may be beneficial to one’s health. The findings add additional evidence that the inherent properties of pure maple syrup promote health. The product comes directly from the sap of the maple tree; thus, making it an all-natural product with unique health benefits.

Dr. André Marette from Laval University in Canada presented results the findings of the very first animal studies comparing maple syrup’s potential effect on blood sugar to other types of sweeteners, including sucrose (table sugar). He explained, “These in vivo studies showed that rats fed with maple syrup did not have as much of a spike in blood sugar levels when compared to rats fed with sucrose. The next step is to repeat this study in humans. While more research is needed, our findings may help people at risk for metabolic syndrome to make better choices when selecting a sweetener for their daily intake. We know today that not all sweeteners are created equal when it comes to glucose control and insulin resistance.”

Dr. Keiko Abe from the University of Tokyo noted, “While more research is needed, our preliminary findings also suggest that maple syrup may have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome and could play a role in the prevention of it.” Dr. Abe used nutrigenomics to study how nutrients affect the body’s genes, He evaluated the effects of maple syrup extracts with different levels of polyphenols. Mice with Type 2 diabetes that were fed a maple syrup extract were found to have improved insulin sensitivity, increased breakdown of fats in the blood, and better regulation of body weight, compared to mice on a control diet without maple.

Drs. Marette’s and Abe’s studies followed research conducted by on the heels of scientific discoveries made by Dr. Seeram over the past three years. In 2011, Dr. Seeram identified 54 polyphenols in maple syrup; some of them possessed similar antioxidant benefits to compounds found in red wine, berries, tea, and flaxseed. In 20q4, his research tema identified nine additional compounds with antioxidant properties and potential health benefits; thus, bringing the total count of phytonutrients known to date to 63. He explained, “Pure maple syrup from Canada has a unique chemistry and combination of natural compounds. The synergistic effect among the multiple constituents found in maple syrup could be the reason for the potential health benefits of this sweetener. I am excited to see the results from human trials.”

Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, commented on the comparative studies presented at ACS. He explained, “We are optimistic to understand more about the potential health benefits of maple syrup in the next few years. Dr. Marette’s and Dr. Abe’s animal studies, in addition to the new polyphenolic compounds found in Dr. Seeram’s lab, pave the way for human studies, which we plan to start next.”

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers cautions that it does not promote an increase of sugar consumption. They note, however, that when choosing a sweetener for moderate use, pure maple syrup has more healthful compounds compared to some other sources of sugar.

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers was founded in 1966 with the mission of defending and promoting the economic, social and moral interests of its 7,400 maple family farms and businesses. These individuals are working together to collectively create quality standards, knowledge and market their products. Quebec is responsible for 93% of the Canadian production and almost 80% of today’s global maple syrup output. Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia contribute 7% of the total Canadian production. For more information, click on this link.