Thanks to modern science, the closely guarded secrets of one of our nation's most distinctive emblems, maple syrup, are now being revealed. It has recently been reported that maple syrup contains polyphenols and shows ORAC values which compare to commonly eaten fruits and vegetables such as broccoli. Now, further research on maple syrup and its original form, maple water, conducted by Dr Yves Desjardins and his colleagues at the Institut des neutraceutiques et des aliments fonctionnels, has revealed that both products contain equally important quantities of terpenes, and in particular, abscisic acid, a phytohormone whose health benefits have only recently been discovered.
Abscisic acid in maple water and maple syrup occurs as a conjugate along with certain metabolites at concentrations that are therapeutic, according to the effective thresholds of abscisic acid (ABA) reported by Dr Guri's group in the US (Guri et al, 2007. Clinical Nutrition 26:107-116). Vegetable physiologists and botanical researchers have known about the physiological properties of abscisic acid in the vegetable kingdom for a long time, but its health benefits for humans has only recently come to light. Along with other effects, it is known to stimulate insulin release through pancreatic cells and to increase sensitivity of fat cells to insulin, which makes it a potent weapon against metabolic syndrome and diabetes. According to Geneviève Béland, Director of Promotion and Market Development for the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, "These findings show that maple products contain a whole host of complementary active elements. The sugar molecules which provide the energy and sweetness in maple products are inherently complemented by abscisic acid molecules because they encourage insulin homeostasis. Further studies are obviously needed before we can more accurately understand how eating maple products affects insulin behaviour. Studying maple products is of particular interest to the food science sector when we consider that all the bioactive molecules of the sugar maple are carried in its sap and that these molecules are forty times more concentrated in maple syrup."