NEW YORK - September 13, 2011 - New research conducted at the University of Tokyo suggests that pure maple syrup may promote a healthy liver. The pilot study, conducted by Dr. Keiko Abe of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, showed that healthy laboratory rats fed a diet in which some of the carbohydrate was replaced with pure maple syrup from Canada yielded significantly better results in liver function tests than the control groups fed a diet with a syrup mix containing a similar sugar content as maple syrup. The results will be published in the November, 2011 issue of Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry.
Although most healthy individuals take liver function for granted, liver health is of great importance because of the hundreds of vital functions it performs that are essential to human life, which include storing energy (glycogen) and regulating blood glucose, the production of certain amino acids (building blocks of protein), filtering harmful substances from the blood. Liver disease not related to alcohol consumption is estimated to affect 25% of people in the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation. It shows up most often in middle aged people who are overweight, have abnormal blood lipids and diabetes or insulin resistance conditions when grouped together, are known as metabolic syndrome.
"It is important to understand the factors leading to impaired liver function - our lifestyle choices including poor diet, stress and lack of exercise, as well as exposure to environmental pollutants that produce tissue-damaging free radicals," says Dr. Melissa Palmer, clinical professor and medical director of hepatology at New York University Plainview. "The preliminary results of this research are encouraging and emphasize the importance of choosing a healthy diet to help counteract the lifestyle and environmental factors that may impact liver function, even our choice of a sweetener. In addition to Dr. Abe's recent findings, published research suggests that pure maple syrup may prove to be a better choice of sweetener because it was found to be rich in polyphenolic antioxidants and contains vitamins and minerals," notes Palmer.
Click here to view a brief video detailing the liver health findings with Dr. Keiko Abe and Dr. Melissa Palmer.
The animals were evaluated using the latest analytical methods including gene expression profiling called nutrigenomics. In the study, rats were fed diets consisting of 20% pure maple syrup, or 20% syrup mixture with similar sugar content as maple syrup. After 11 days, the rats on the maple syrup diet showed significantly decreased levels of liver enzymes AST, ALT and LDH in the blood, standard biomarkers for evaluating liver function. The gene expression profiling observations also suggest a mechanism whereby the maple syrup diet caused genes involved in the production of harmful ammonia in the liver to down-regulate, that is, to be less active.
"This research contributes to our growing understanding of the incredible health potential of maple syrup," remarked Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. "We learned previously that maple syrup contains antioxidant compounds that may actually help regulate glucose metabolism and increase insulin release, possibly aiding in the management of type 2 diabetes. And now Dr. Abe is exploring the relationship between maple syrup consumption and liver health. Her current findings give us even more reason to enjoy our maple syrup."
This study was funded by the Conseil pour le développement de l'agriculture du Québec (CDAQ) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) on behalf of the Canadian Maple Syrup Industry and the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
About the Federation and the Canadian maple syrup industry
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers was founded in 1966 with the mission of defending and promoting the economic, social and moral interests of its 7,400 maple family farms businesses. These men and women are working together to collectively work on quality standards, create knowledge and market their products. Quebec is responsible for 93 percent of the Canadian production and close to 80 percent of today's global maple syrup output. Therefore the Federation is proud to lead scientific research in the name of the entire Canadian maple syrup industry. Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia contribute seven percent of the total Canadian production.
About Keiko Abe, Ph.D,
Dr. Abe is a professor in the Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo. She has received several awards and been honored both nationally and internationally, including the 'Purple Ribbon', the Imperial Medal of Honor and the highest award a Japanese citizen can receive for contributions to their country and international recognition. Together with Dr. Arai, Dr. Abe participated in developing the concept of functional foods along with the first publication of the concept in Nature magazine (1993). She leads one of the largest nutrigenomics groups in the world and is consulted by major agri-food corporations. She also serves on the Scientific Steering Committee for Nestlé and acts as consultant for the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan. Her areas of expertise include food biochemistry, nutrigenomics, the science of taste, and cellular and molecular biology. She is credited with more than 150 publications and has published nine books.
About Melissa Palmer, MD
Dr. Palmer is medical director of hepatology at New York University Hepatology Associates Plainview and a clinical professor of medicine at New York University. She graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts and was trained in hepatology and medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Palmer is Board Certified in Gastroenterology and in Internal Medicine. Dr. Palmer released her latest book in September 2011 on "Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease Nutrition Desk Reference," and is the author of the best-selling book "Dr. Melissa Palmer's Guide to Hepatitis and Liver Disease." She has also authored numerous scientific publications in the field of hepatology in such peer-reviewed journals as Hepatology, Gastroenterology, Seminars of Liver Disease, Transplantation, and Archives of Internal Medicine.
Maple syrup should be consumed in moderation.