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Maple syrup the hot new superfood?

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Maple syrup the hot new superfood? Oh, come on ...

By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times

April 5, 2011, 2:46 p.m.

Maple syrup: It's sweet, it's calorific, and -- this just in -- it contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and stuff. Which must mean -- reasoning leap alert! -- that it is a superfood that can help ward off myriad health problems, like cancer and diabetes.

In a study just reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers analyzed the various compounds in maple syrup. They found 54 antioxidants, including five new ones. (One they've dubbed Quebecol, after the region where much maple syrup is produced.) And they found polyphenols that appear to interfere with the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, which leads them to think that this might be a better sweetener for diabetics to put on a pancake than regular old corn syrup (though it strikes me, as it may you, that maple syrup contains an awful lot of sugar).

The findings have mightily excited those in the maple sugar industry (and presumably anyone who wants to douse their pancakes with impunity). Even the study authors are waxing a tad hyperbolic:

"The sheer quantity and variety of identified compounds with documented health benefits qualifies maple syrup as a champion food," said study author Navindra Seeram, an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island in a news release. The study was funded in part by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University's office of science and society, appeared less giddy over the syrup news. As he put it in an article in the Montreal Gazette, "To suggest that maple syrup is healthy because it contains a number of phenolic compounds is rumpled thinking that needs to be straightened out. Phenolics are not rare -- they are abundant in fruits and vegetables.... The only reason to eat maple syrup is that it tastes good."

 
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