The weekend is almost here and in kitchens across the country families will be serving up pancakes and maple syrup. While maple syrup usually is put in the category of natural sugars we should consume on a limited basis, researchers have revealed a new discovery that might re-categorize maple syrup as anti-aging medicine.
Researchers have found some remarkable natural compounds in maple syrup that appear to solve the root causes of the aging process. Here’s the sweet story…
When our bodies age, they undergo a number of changes that slow down our resilience to the wear and tear of daily living. For instance, the immune system slowly starts to malfunction – causing chronic inflammation that increases the risk of health problems including heart disease, cancer and memory issues.
Adding to these issues is the accumulation in the body of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are harmful substances that literally “age” you. They’re created when proteins and fats cross link with sugar – a process that usually occurs in the bloodstream. They’re another good reason to limit sugar in your meals and snacks!
Plus, when you cook meats at high temperatures (summer time grilling, I’m looking at you!), AGEs can form in the food that you eat.
A wealth of research shows that accumulating AGEs can lead to serious health issues. For example, they may interfere with the way cells communicate, cause genetic damage and exacerbate the inflammation that’s a precursor to numerous diseases of aging.1
Now, the body has natural processes that can eliminate AGEs. But, like many physiological systems that protect your health when you’re young, they get less efficient as you get older.
That’s where maple syrup’s phytochemicals enter the picture.
Helping the Body Avoid Damage From AGEs
According to researchers at the University of Rhode Island, maple trees make substances called phenolic acids that can help the body keep AGEs from forming, while also helping to moderate inflammation and control oxidative stress that results from existing AGEs.
In the lab, the scientists took a deep dive into the complicated chemistry of how AGEs are created when proteins and fats interact with sugar. They found that the maple syrup extract they worked with (which is sort of a super-powered version of maple syrup that’s enhanced with extra phenolic acids) limited the harmful cross-linking between molecules. They also found that the extract protected the geometrical structure of proteins so that they could still be used in constructive ways by the body’s cells instead of being warped by the glycation process.2
Defusing Damaging Free Radicals
During this research, the Rhode Island scientists observed how maple syrup extract acts as a powerful antioxidant that fights back against the damaging oxidative effects of free radicals. They and other researchers believe that oxidative stress from free radicals enhances the destructive activities of AGEs.
Other potential benefits of maple syrup’s powerful phytochemicals include:
- Lowering the risk of colon cancer. A study shows that the maple syrup extract could protect normal colon cells from oxidative stress and cancer-causing damage from free radicals. The research demonstrates that the extract scavenges up to 58 percent of the free radicals.3
- Protecting the nervous system against harmful inflammation. Lab tests at the University of Rhode Island on maple syrup extract also show that it limits neuroinflammation (inflammation in the nervous system) and may support better brain function by protecting brain cells against inflammation. But so far this theory has only been tested on animals.4
Using Maple Syrup Extract to Slow Aging
Right now, the maple syrup extract used by researchers is not yet available to consumers.
If you use maple syrup as a sweetener, you’ll no doubt get some of these health-boosting phenolic acids. However, I’m sure the sugar content of maple syrup can offset many of the potential benefits. For one thing, the extract studied in Rhode Island not only has extra phenolic acids added, the researchers lowered its sugar content because they know sugar’s not good for you.
Still, if you’re looking to sweeten some of your food, a tiny bit of maple syrup is probably better than regular sugar. Just don’t overdo it!