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Is Maple Syrup Healthy?

July 23, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Natural sweeteners, whether agave nectar, honey or stevia are often perceived and/or represented as reasonably healthy, especially when used in moderation. Support for this theory typically stems from two prevalent beliefs. The first asserts that natural substances are more compatible with the human body than synthetic counterparts, such as aspartame (Equal), saccharine (Sweet’N Low) and sucralose (Splenda). Secondly, there are claims that some natural sweeteners are actually good sources of nutrients. In both instances, modern science can help “separate the wheat from the chaff” when it comes to sweeteners of all kinds.

There are number of factors that set maple syrup apart from other liquid sweeteners. The primary difference, in comparison to agave and honey, is the percentage of fructose. Agave and honey are made up mostly of fructose. On the other hand, maple syrup is almost entirely comprised of sucrose. Chemically-speaking, this makes it much closer to brown sugar and common table sugar. In terms of nutritional content, maple syrup, like most other sweeteners, is not very nutritious. A one ounce serving provides approximately 40 to 80 mg of calcium, 4 to 25 mg of magnesium and 10 to 30 mg of potassium. Therefore, any claim that maple syrup can and should play an important role as part of a nutrient dense diet is overstating the facts.

All of this is not to say that maple syrup doesn’t possess some therapeutic potential. The verifiable benefits of maple syrup are most likely attributable to antioxidants present in maple sap. A recent inquiry, published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found 30 previously undiscovered phytochemicals in maple syrup. Many of the substances identified include coumarins, lignans, oligosaccharides and various phenolic compounds that are associated with a wide range of health benefits. What’s more, these substances may be responsible for numerous positive findings in animal trials utilizing maple syrup as a dietary component. In these studies, animals fed maple sap or syrup were afforded protection against high blood pressure, liver damage and, even, osteoporosis. Whether or not these results can be extrapolated to humans has not yet been determined.

Even with the promise noted in the previous animal research, I still consider maple syrup an unnecessary ingredient in my diet. I think it wise to get a limited amount of carbohydrates from other sources that include higher levels of minerals and vitamins, such as low-glycemic fruits (apples, berries, cherries), vegetables (asparagus, bell peppers, spinach) and occasional treats such as organic dates. If a concentrated source of added sweetness is desired, luo han guo and stevia are still my favorite choices. On the other hand, maple syrup is almost certainly a healthier option than agave nectar, the trendiest natural sweetener on the market.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Pure Maple Syrup: Nutritive Value (link)

Study 2 - Total Antioxidant Content of Alternatives to Refined Sugar(link)

Study 3 - Antioxidant Activity, Inhibition of Nitric Oxide Overproduction (link)

Study 4 - Maple Sap as a Rich Medium to Grow Probiotic Lactobacilli (link)

Study 5 - Further Investigation into Maple Syrup Yields 3 New Lignans(link)

Study 6 – Maple Syrup Phytochemicals Include Lignans, Coumarins (link)

Study 7 – Ingested Maple Syrup Evokes a Possible Liver-Protecting Effect (link)

Study 8 - Beneficial Effects of Acer Okamotoanum Sap on L-NAME-Induced (link)

Study 9 - The Sap of Acer Okamotoanum Decreases serum Alcohol Levels (link)

Study 10 - The Beneficial Effect of the Sap of Acer Mono in an Animal with (link)

Dietary Maple Sap May Improve Bone Density in Mice

Source: Br J Nutr. 2008 Nov;100(5):1011-8. (link)

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8 Comments & Updates to “Is Maple Syrup Healthy?”

  1. rob Says:

    Not neccesary but a tasty treat

  2. JP Says:

    No doubt about the ‘tasty’ part. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. JP Says:

    Update 06/10/15:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09168451.2015.1042833?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

    Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2015 May 18:1-5.

    Administration of a maple syrup extract to mitigate their hepatic inflammation induced by a high-fat diet: a transcriptome analysis.

    Effects of the administration of maple syrup extract (MSX) on hepatic gene expression were investigated in mice fed a high-fat diet. Gene annotation enrichment analysis based on gene ontology revealed some changes in the expression of genes related to lipid metabolism and the immune response in MSX-fed mice. Detailed analysis of these data indicated that MSX ingestion mitigates hepatic inflammation.

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Updated 08/09/15:

    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jos/64/3/64_ess14075/_pdf

    J Oleo Sci. 2015;64(3):331-5.

    Changes in plasma glucose in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty rats after oral administration of maple syrup.

    We investigate whether maple syrup is a suitable sweetener in the management of type 2 diabetes using the Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rat. The enhancement in plasma glucose (PG) and glucose absorption in the small intestine were lower after the oral administration of maple syrup than after sucrose administration in OLETF rats, and no significant differences were observed in insulin levels. These data suggested that maple syrup might inhibit the absorption of glucose from the small intestine and preventing the enhancement of PG in OLETF rats. Therefore, maple syrup might help in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. JP Says:

    Updated 08/09/15:

    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jos/62/9/62_737/_pdf

    J Oleo Sci. 2013;62(9):737-43.

    Comparison of the enhancement of plasma glucose levels in type 2 diabetes Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty rats by oral administration of sucrose or maple syrup.

    Maple syrup is used as a premium natural sweeter, and is known for being good for human health. In the present study, we investigate whether maple syrup is suitable as a sweetener in the management of type 2 diabetes using Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats, a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus. OLETF rats develop type 2 diabetes mellitus by 30 weeks of age, and 60-week-old OLETF rats show hyperglycemia and hypoinsulinemia via pancreatic β-cell dysfunction. The administration of sucrose or maple syrup following an OGT test increased plasma glucose (PG) levels in OLETF rats, but the enhancement in PG following the oral administration of maple syrup was lower than in the case of sucrose administration in both 30- and 60-week-old OLETF rats. Although, the insulin levels in 30-week-old OLETF rats also increased following the oral administration of sucrose or maple syrup, no increase in insulin levels was seen in 60-week-old OLETF rats following the oral administration of either sucrose or maple syrup. No significant differences were observed in insulin levels between sucrose- and maple syrup-administered OLETF rats at either 30 or 60 weeks of age. The present study strongly suggests that the maple syrup may have a lower glycemic index than sucrose, which may help in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Updated 08/09/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334281/

    J Agric Food Chem. 2014 Jul 16;62(28):6687-98.

    Chemical compositional, biological, and safety studies of a novel maple syrup derived extract for nutraceutical applications.

    Maple syrup has nutraceutical potential given the macronutrients (carbohydrates, primarily sucrose), micronutrients (minerals and vitamins), and phytochemicals (primarily phenolics) found in this natural sweetener. We conducted compositional (ash, fiber, carbohydrates, minerals, amino acids, organic acids, vitamins, phytochemicals), in vitro biological, and in vivo safety (animal toxicity) studies on maple syrup extracts (MSX-1 and MSX-2) derived from two declassified maple syrup samples. Along with macronutrient and micronutrient quantification, thirty-three phytochemicals were identified (by HPLC-DAD), and nine phytochemicals, including two new compounds, were isolated and identified (by NMR) from MSX. At doses of up to 1000 mg/kg/day, MSX was well tolerated with no signs of overt toxicity in rats. MSX showed antioxidant (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay) and anti-inflammatory (in RAW 264.7 macrophages) effects and inhibited glucose consumption (by HepG2 cells) in vitro. Thus, MSX should be further investigated for potential nutraceutical applications given its similarity in chemical composition to pure maple syrup.

    Be well!

    JP

  7. JP Says:

    Updated 05/14/16:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960894X15303048

    Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2016 Jan 15;26(2):440-4.

    Anti-inflammatory properties of quebecol and its derivatives.

    Herein we report our results on the anti-inflammatory activity of quebecol, a polyphenolic compound discovered in maple syrup. Bioassays demonstrated that quebecol has an anti-inflammatory effect on LPS-induced NF-κB activation and inhibits the secretion of two pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-6 and TNF-α. We also prepared and tested precursors of quebecol and its derivatives corresponding to its substructures of interest, with the aim to study the structure-activity relationships. Comparing the results obtained for all tested compounds allowed the identification of the main moiety responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity of quebecol.

    Be well!

    JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 05/14/16:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09168451.2015.1042833?journalCode=tbbb20

    Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2015;79(11):1893-7.

    Administration of a maple syrup extract to mitigate their hepatic inflammation induced by a high-fat diet: a transcriptome analysis.

    Effects of the administration of maple syrup extract (MSX) on hepatic gene expression were investigated in mice fed a high-fat diet. Gene annotation enrichment analysis based on gene ontology revealed some changes in the expression of genes related to lipid metabolism and the immune response in MSX-fed mice. Detailed analysis of these data indicated that MSX ingestion mitigates hepatic inflammation.

    Be well!

    JP

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