Can You Fight Disease While Enjoying Pancakes?
Pure Grade A American maple syrup is one of North America’s unique, signature products. Long before Europeans arrived on these shores, Native Americans were tapping sugar maple trees in spring to produce the heavenly liquid. Today maple syrup production remains an important industry, but many Americans have never even tasted the real stuff. Most people are accustomed to eating synthetic, fake syrup that’s made primarily from high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring and colors.
That’s a shame, because genuine maple syrup is an extraordinary treat, with a distinctive flavor profile that can’t really be copied. The flavor is subtle, sweet, and complex. Scientists have struggled to identify all of the many components that contribute to it’s unique flavor. Some of those components are compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are produced by many plants. They tend to be highly beneficial compounds.
Maple syrup is produced in early spring, as maple trees begin to convert complex carbohydrates stored in their roots over winter into simpler sugars, which then flow upwards in the trees’ sap. After collection, the sweet sap is heated to remove most of its water, leaving behind the thick, amber-colored “liquid gold” we know as maple syrup.
Most people eat it on breakfast foods, such as pancakes, waffles and French toast. Of course, it’s exceptionally calorie-dense, so it seldom gets mentioned as anyone’s idea of a health food. But that perception may be due for objective re-evaluation. While the synthetic stuff may offer nothing more than empty calories, the same can’t be said of maple syrup.
Emerging research suggests that, like so many other natural plant-produced foods, maple syrup contains previously overlooked properties that may benefit health. In fact, according to Canadian researchers, polyphenols in maple syrup can render certain disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. That, in turn, could enable doctors and patients to rely on fewer antibiotics to treat infections.
Of course, overuse of antibiotics is a major public health concern, because it drives the development of “superbugs” capable of resisting even the most potent, expensive antibiotics. Antibiotics also interfere with the health of the gut microbiome, which may have longterm effects on a person’s immune system function.
In laboratory studies, the maple syrup polyphenol extract, when combined with an antibiotic, acted synergistically to destroy difficult-to-treat biofilms; an especially resistant form of bacterial colonies. The extract affected the gene expression of the bacteria, repressing various genes associated with antibiotic resistance and virulence.
“…The findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics,” said researcher, Nathalie Tufenkji.
Vimal B. Maisuria, Zeinab Hosseinidoust, Nathalie Tufenkji. Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2015; AEM.00239-15 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00239-15