Bring On The Waffles and Pancakes

Anytime I read about a food item that's been moved up the naughty list and actually crosses over to good-for-you status, I take note.

University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.

Hotcakes! Does this mean there is hope for finding out Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's ice cream is a panacea? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to suggest a new flavor: Maple Miracle, perhaps?

Anyhow, back to the story at hand.

“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it,” says Seeram via a press release sent out from the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., which is being held today (March 30, 2011). “It’s important to note that 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.”

These discoveries of new molecules from nature can also provide chemists with leads that could prompt synthesis of medications that could be used to fight fatal diseases, adds Seeram.

The irony of finding a potential anti-diabetes compound in a sweetener is not lost on Seeram. “Not all sweeteners are created equal,” he says.

Among the five new compounds is Quebecol, a compound created when a farmer boils off the water in maple sap to get maple syrup. It takes 40 liters (20.5 gallons) of sap to make 1 liter (2 pints) of syrup.

“Quebecol has a unique chemical structure or skeleton never before identified in nature,” Seeram says. “I believe the process of concentrating the maple sap into maple syrup is what creates Quebecol. There is beneficial and interesting chemistry going on when the boiling process occurs. I believe the heat forms this unique compound.”

Seeram said he and his team chose the common name of Quebecol for the new compound to honor the province of Quebec in Canada, which leads the worldwide production of maple syrup. Seeram’s research was supported by the Conseil pour le developpement de l’agriculture du Quebec (CDAQ) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on behalf of the Canadian maple syrup industry.

Now I have yet another reason to sing "O Canada" and salute my neighbors to the north. Kudos Canada!

Traci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor