Maple syrup could protect against Alzheimer's, research suggests
Published Saturday, March 19, 2016 10:00PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 19, 2016 10:21PM EDT
It is one of Canada's most famous and sweetest exports, and now it’s gaining recognition in the medical community for its potential health benefits.
At a summit of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, Calif., earlier this week, scientists out of the University of Toronto and the University of Rhode Island indicated that maple syrup has shown promise in protecting brain cells against the damage found in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's.
One study presented by Dr. Donald Weaver, of the University of Toronto’s Krembil Research Institute, found that an extract of the sticky and sweet Canadian staple may prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins, beta amyloid and tau peptide, which have been linked to Alzheimer's.
Research has shown that when cellular proteins fold improperly and clump together, they accumulate and develop into the plaque that leads to Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.
"What we have shown in test tubes is that the extract of maple syrup prevents these, I'll call them ‘bad proteins,’ from misfolding and behaving badly," Weaver told CTV News.
Another study led by Navindra P. Seeram, an associate professor from the University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with researchers at Texas State University, found that pure maple syrup extract prevented the tangling of beta amyloid proteins and protected the neurons in rodents' brain cells, specifically microglial, which are the primary form of defence against pathogens in the central nervous system.
Research has linked a decrease in microglial function with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The maple syrup extract was also found to prolong the lifespan of a roundworm with Alzheimer's.
"Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combatting Alzheimer's disease,” Seeram said in a press release.
“And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer's disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine.
"However, further animal and eventually human studies would be required to confirm these initial findings."
In 2011, 747,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. It predicts that at the current rate, this figure will increase to 1.4 million people by 2031.
Serge Beaulieu has been producing maple syrup for nearly 35 years and is the president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. He has been pushing for scientific research on the potential benefits of the sweetener, and is excited by the findings that emerged from the summit.
"The Federation and the 7,300 Quebec maple enterprisers are committed to investing in scientific research to help better understand the link between food and health. This has been demonstrated by a robust and carefully guided research program that started in 2005 to explore the potential health benefits of pure maple syrup," Beaulieu said.
"We already know that maple has more than 100 bioactive compounds, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Brain health is the latest topic of exploration and we look forward to learning more about the potential benefits that maple syrup might have in this area."
Canada is the leading producer of maple syrup, accounting for more than 80 per cent of the world's supply. The vast majority of it comes from Quebec, where there are about 44 million taps.
Demand for it has gone up 50 per cent in over a decade, as the public has come to use it in a variety of different recipes.
With a report from CTV's Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin