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Meet the latest superfood: maple syrup. Wait a minute...maple syrup? The super-sugary stuff poured on pancakes and waffles and used to glaze hams? That maple syrup?
That's right. Researchers from the University of Rhode Island have discovered that the syrup-produced in the northeastern United States and Canada--contains numerous compounds with real health benefits.
"In our laboratory research, we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes, and bacterial illnesses," said Navindra Seeram, an assistant professor of pharmacognosy (the study of medicines derived from natural sources) at the university and the study's lead author.
Substances called polyphenols contained in the syrup might help control blood sugar levels, Seeram said. But that's not all. More than 50 beneficial compounds were found in maple syrup by researchers. Five of those compounds hadn't even been seen in nature before.
And yes, Seeram realizes how strange it seems that maple syrup-maple syrup, mind you-could have beneficial effects for people with diabetes. "Not all sweeteners are created equal," he said.
The researchers talked about their appetizing work in April at the American Chemical Society's regular meeting in Anaheim, California. A paper describing their results will appear in the Journal of Functional Foods. Scientists hope that these discoveries could lead to innovative treatments as the beneficial substances are synthesized to create new kinds of medicine.
You might want to pause for a moment before rushing out and buying jug after jug of Canada's finest maple syrup, though. It still contains plenty of sugar, and Seeram discourages gorging on the stuff for possible health benefits. Similar compounds have been found in blueberries and green tea, among other foods.
The results must have pleased the research's sponsors. Funds for the scientific work came from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.