September’s REVIEW piece bangs the same exact drum as our August post. Put simply, the benefits of maple syrup are VAST, and this article by Faez Mohammed and team expand the discussion beyond nutritional to also include pharmacological and sensory attributes. how do big trees make baby trees and what factors promote or inhibit that process. In case you are interested in reading the full article which was published just over a month ago, “Nutritional, pharmacological, and sensory properties of maple syrup: A comprehensive review” is available here.
While this article is not presenting new research, the authors are doing the hard work of sampling the existing literature and drawing together a synthetic summary of what many many others have discovered in the past. 95 total research articles factor into this particular review. Here are some interesting facts and tidbits that I found interesting as I read through the paper.
1) A major reason that maple syrup has a long list of nutritional benefits and something like white granulated sugar has a long list of known negative impacts is that maple syrup is NOT processed by humans as a refined sugar, instead maple syrup is processed as a source of carbohydrates.
2) Maple syrup is often compared to other natural sweetener alternatives. Maple syrup contains 60.5 grams sugar per 100 total g. This is less sugar than honey (68 g), molasses (74.7 g), and of course high fructose corn syrup (75.7 g).
3) When we say something is an antioxidant, we are referring to a substance that reduces free radicals that are loose like a “bull in the china shop” wreaking havoc on cells and cell membranes. For something to arrest and capture free radicals is to possess antioxidant properties. Maple syrup is known to have antioxidant properties that come primarily from 2 types of compounds. Without getting overly technical and going into specifics, early season syrup has anti-oxidizing properties due to 1 set of compounds, and syrup made from sap harvested from the second half of the season relies on a different type of compound to chase down and capture free radicals. That is cool!!
4) When we say something has antiproliferative properties, we are referring to a substance that keep cancer cells from multiplying quickly and without impediment. It turns out maple syrup has these properties too! But some maple syrup is better at slowing the growth rates of cancer cells than others. Past research has found darker color maple syrup has a greater ability to slow harmful cell production than lighter grades of syrup. Certain phenolic compounds register higher in darker colored syrup, and it is believed these substances are the active agents at play in antiproliferative defenses.
5) If you can get your hands on this article, it is absolutely a great resource. I could list a number of additional points that reflect the general tenor of #3 and #4, but suffice it to say this post would grow real long real fast. Again, here is a link to the abstract and research article in full.
I want wrap up this REVIEW by focusing on a small subsection within the larger article titled “Effect of maple syrup production processes on its nutritional value and component bioactivity.” In other words, what should the maple syrup production process look like to enhance and bolster the nutritional and medical benefits of finished maple syrup product? Here are a couple quick takeaways in closing. Antimutagenic (preserving DNA integrity) properties seem to be highest in the earliest lightest color syrup made in the season. Darker syrup grades are better equipped to fight cancer cells. Drying syrup (making some value-added products) reduces total phenolic content (the agents responsible for antiproliferative defense) and antioxidant capacities. This is my own two cents, but I get the growing sense that investigating the intricate and minute details of maple syrup in terms of its chemical structure, molecular compounds, and different properties, traits, and characteristics is like a medical explorer penetrating the deepest and darkest most remote corners of the tropics where previously undiscovered plant species may hold the spark to the next game-changing pharmacological revolution. Remarkable stuff!!