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."
The detailed results of the study will be presented by Dr Desjardins at the Emerging Topics in Health Effects of Fruits and Vegetables symposium which forms part of the 28th International Horticultural Congress in Portugal, August 22-27, 2010. The study was financed by Agriculture and AgriFood Canada as part of its support programs for science and innovation which are aimed at encouraging collaboration between the agricultural and industrial sectors, the government and universities so that new opportunities for strategic innovation are identified quicker.
Quebec and Canadian maple products will also be in the spotlight in a seminar presented by Dr Navindra Seeram from the University of Rhode Island at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society taking place in San Francisco from March 21-25 of this year. According to Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and member of the Canadian Maple Industry Advisory Committee: "A new era is starting for Quebec and Canadian maple products in which our national emblem will be the pride and joy of this country and abroad because of the vitality that maple represents as one of the world's great products. The Quebec and Canadian maple industry will create an international research network for maple with the best research units dedicated to maple, as well as investing in collaboration with different bodies such as Agriculture and AgriFood Canada so that we can add value to the gastronomic and health benefits that maple products bring. With maple being featured at these two scientific conferences it signifies the next stage in a historic strategic step for the industry."
FEDERATION DES PRODUCTEURS ACERICOLES DU QUEBEC