Major breakthrough in maple syrup research
Clinical Study Shows Maple Syrup Better than Refined Sugars for Cardiometabolic Health
The science continues to build on the potential health benefits of maple syrup and its polyphenol content. Data from a new clinical nutrition study demonstrate that maple syrup, used as a substitute for refined sweeteners, provides cardiometabolic benefits and meets the recognized criteria of a functional food. This represents a major advance for not only the maple industry but people with cardiometabolic diseases. 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.
The research was revealed at the annual conference of the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS) in Québec City under the title “Substituting refined sugars by maple syrup decreases key cardiometabolic risk factors in individuals with mild metabolic alterations: a randomized, double-blind, controlled crossover trial”. It was conducted by a Université Laval team led by Dr. André Marette, PhD, at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec and Dr. Marie-Claude Vohl, PhD, at the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods. The study 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 recognized risk factors for cardiometabolic disease.
Reductions in Abdominal Fat and Systolic Blood Pressure, and Improved Glycemic Response
The eight-week study was conducted on 42 adults with mild alterations in their cardiometabolic profiles and an average body mass index of 28 kg/m2. For each phase, participants either consumed one serving (about 30 ml or 2 tbsp) of maple syrup or one serving of flavoured sucrose syrup (the placebo) per day, corresponding to 5% of their daily energy intake. Their cardiometabolic risk factors and fecal microbiota composition were assessed before and after each intervention phase.
The analysis found that replacing refined sugar with maple syrup reduced certain cardiometabolic risk factors, specifically by decreasing abdominal fat and systolic blood pressure, and improving glycemic response in an oral glucose tolerance test.
While replacing refined sugar with maple syrup did not induce major changes in the overall composition of gut microbiota, a reduction of certain bacteria (e.g., Pectinophilus and Klebsiella) was noted. Klebsiella is associated with a poor cardiometabolic profile so this may be considered one of maple syrup’s beneficial effects.
Said Dr. Marette of Université Laval, “Up until now, there had been no randomized 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 is pleased with the study’s results confirming maple syrup’s health benefits: “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.”
There is evidence that polyphenols can exert a prebiotic-like action on gut microbiota that improve cardiometabolic well-being. Animal studies have already shown that maple syrup represents a good alternative to refined sugars, as it lessens liver damage and glucose homeostasis (blood sugar regulation). These effects are associated with changes in the gut microbiota.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that added sugar should not exceed 10% of daily energy intake, a ratio that is likely to decrease in coming years. This is why QMSP took the initiative of commissioning a study based on only 5% of daily energy intake.
Maple Is a Better Sweetener
Maple syrup is a popular kitchen staple, but it is also complex, much more than just a sweetener. 100% pure maple syrup contains over 100 compounds such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, phytohormones, and 67 polyphenols. That’s what makes it a healthier choice than white sugar or other refined sweeteners. Find out more about the science of maple at https://maplescience.org/ingredients/.
 A functional food is similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food, is consumed as part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-labelling/health-claims/nutraceuticals-functional-foods-health-claims-foods-policy-paper.html
About Québec Maple Syrup Producers and the Érable du Québec Brand
Québec Maple Syrup Producers (QMSP) represents the interests of 13,300 women and men and more than 8,000 enterprises that produce maple syrup. Québec provides an average 72% of the world’s maple syrup supply, exporting it to more than 70 countries.
Arianne Morissette#1,2, Anne-Laure Agrinier#1,2, Théo Gignac3, Lamia Ramadan1, Julie Marois2, Thibault V Varin2, Geneviève Pilon1,2, Éric Larose1, Claudia Gagnon1,3, Benoit J Arsenault1, Jean-Pierre Després1,4, Anne-Marie Carreau3, Marie-Claude Vohl2,5, and André Marette1,2.
1 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Québec Heart and Lung Institute, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.
2 Centre Nutrition, santé et société (NUTRISS), Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF), Université Laval Québec, Canada.
3 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Centre de Recherche CHU de Québec-Université Laval, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.
4 VITAM – Centre de recherche en santé durable, CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, Québec, Canada.
5 School of Nutrition, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.
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