Research recently unveiled at the Canadian Nutrition Society in Québec City has shown that maple syrup is better than refined sugars when it comes to cardiovascular health.
The clinical nutrition study – which aims to build on the benefits of maple syrup and its polyphenols – demonstrated that the sweet sap provides cardiometabolic support and meets the “recognised criteria of a functional food”.
Used as a substitute for refined sweeteners and sugars, the data shows that maple syrup may help food and beverage manufacturers naturally boost the sweetness of their products without the need for unhealthy or refined sources.
The study was jointly funded by Québec Maple Syrup Producers (QMSP) and the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) through its healthy food production initiative, the Programme Alimentation santé.
It was conducted by researchers at the Université Laval, led by André Marette at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec and Marie-Claude Vohl at the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods.
The results are in
The team examined the effect of “substituting 5% of the total daily energy provided by added sugars with an equivalent quantity of maple syrup on the composition of subjects’ intestinal microbiota, and its impact on recognised risk factors for cardiometabolic disease”.
Over eight weeks, the researchers studied 42 adults with mild alterations to their cardiometabolic profiles. During each phase, participants consumed one serving (2tbsp) of maple syrup or one serving of flavoured sucrose syrup (the placebo) per day. The team evaluated their cardiometabolic risk factors and faecal microbiota before and after each phase.
Results found that replacing refined sugar with maple syrup had a positive effect on cardiometabolic health, decreasing abdominal fat and systolic blood pressure, while improving glycemic response in an oral glucose tolerance test.
Marette commented: “Up until now, there had been no randomised controlled trial on the impact of replacing refined sugars with maple syrup on intestinal microbiota and cardiometabolic risk factors in humans. Our results suggest that the consumption of maple syrup as a natural sweetening agent is more beneficial to cardiometabolic health than that of refined sugars and can be associated with selective changes in gut microbiota.”
QMSP President Luc Goulet added: “This research builds on years of ongoing research on the properties of maple syrup, made solely from the sap of maple trees harvested by our hard-working producers”.
Benefits for food and beverage manufacturers
Manufacturers looking to improve their product formulations, while meeting consumer demand for healthy and functional alternatives, may want to look no further than the maple tree.
Evidence suggests that the polyphenols in maple can “exert a probiotic-like action on gut microbiota that improve cardiometabolic wellbeing”. Animal studies have also shown that maple syrup could be a good alternative to refined sugars, as it “lessens liver damage and glucose homeostasis”.
Maple syrup is already a popular kitchen staple for many consumers. However, its applications may reach far beyong the pantry. “100% pure maple syrup contains over 100 compounds such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, phytohormones and 67 polyphenols,” a statement from the study said. “That’s what makes it a healthier choice than white sugar or other refined sweeteners.”
Maple syrups can be added to paleo foods, raw foods and natural products. It can be used to flavour desserts, baked goods, snacks and more.
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