Is maple syrup the new brain food? Canadian research suggests it could protect against Alzheimer’s

Could maple syrup be the latest food in helping to keep your brain healthy?. AP Photo/Matthew Mead

Blueberries, green tea, pomegranates and…maple syrup? In new Canadian and U.S. research, scientists say compounds in the sweet Canadian staple could protect against diseases in the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s.

While it’s typically doused in our breakfast pancakes, scientists out of the University of Toronto and the University of Rhode Island say maple syrup is a promising option in protecting brain cells against damage found in Alzheimer’s disease. That’s in their early stage findings at least.

“Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combatting Alzheimer’s disease. And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies…extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” Dr. Navindra Seeram said.

“However, further animal and eventually human studies would be required to confirm these initial findings,” he said in a statement.

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READ MORE: 5 ways to keep your brain young and healthy

Seeram, along with Toronto’s Dr. Donald Weaver, were among about two dozen scientists who presented findings on natural products and how they could fight neurodegenerative diseases at an annual American Chemical Society meeting this week.

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In Weaver’s research, he found that an extract in maple syrup could stop the clumping of proteins in brain cells, specifically tau peptides. A buildup of tau proteins has been tied to brain disease in athletes in the past few years.

In other studies presented at the symposium, doctors found that an extract in pure maple syrup stopped the tangling of other proteins in the brains of rats. The same compound also helped with protecting the brain.

The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers says it isn’t surprised by the preliminary research.

“This has been demonstrated by a robust and carefully guided research program that started in 2005 to explore the potential health benefits of pure maple syrup,” Serge Beaulieu, president of the organization, said.

“Brain health is the latest topic of exploration and we look forward to learning more about the potential benefits that maple syrup might have in this area,” he said.

READ MORE: What are the early warning signs and symptoms of dementia?

Experts in the field of dementia have already said that what you eat also feeds your brain.

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“The brain directs our heart and all of our organs to do the jobs they’re meant to do and what we’re learning is there are specific foods that are particularly good for brain health,” Mary Schulz, director of education at the Alzheimer Society of Canada, said.

So what should you be eating? Look for colour when putting your meals together because those are the ingredients that’ll be packed with antioxidants and other nutrients to nourish your brain.

READ MORE: 6 misconceptions about nutrition and healthy eating

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables — blackberries, blueberries, purple cabbage and plums — are a good start. Green ones, including broccoli, avocados, spinach, and pears, help too.

Red foods, from beets, raspberries, red grapes, tomatoes and red peppers, also make good choices, Schulz said.

Fish is packed with omega-3s, so reach for tuna, salmon and herring to feed your brain.

Perhaps maple syrup will soon be a staple on the list too.

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