Maple syrup and antibiotics

Canada has given the world many things; the Mounties, Joni Mitchell, Ryan Gosling, sonar, Superman, the snowmobile, and a unique pronunciation of the phrase “out an about” (translates into Canadian as “oot and aboot”). There is debate as to its exact origins but maple syrup is also heavily identified with the country that carries the maple leaf on its flag and with due respect to Ryan Gosling it may be that maple syrup could be one the most valuable things to come out of Canada today according to the findings of a new study.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most significant challenges facing the medical community. There is a desperate search for ways to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria and in this study maple syrup has shown to have some potential in that fight.

Maple syrup is made by extracting sap from the maple tree and boiling it down to remove water. It takes around 40 litres of maple sap to make one litre of maple syrup, so true maple syrup is a largely naturally occurring substance minus its water. It also contains manganese and zinc, slightly fewer carbohydrates than honey, and phenols that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

In the new study maple syrup was purchased at local markets in Montreal and then frozen until it was used in the experiment at which point it was concentrated further to heighten the levels of phenols in the extract. This maple syrup extract was then tested against strains of bacteria including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis which is commonly involved in urinary tract infections.

On its own the extract was mildly effective in killing bacteria but it was particularly effective when combined with antibiotics. The results when the maple syrup extract and antibiotics were combined were greater than the sum of the effects of each separately. So there is some synergy between maple syrup and antibiotics at work here. Additionally, maple syrup allowed antibiotics to be effective against bacteria that had aggregated into “biofilms” which are difficult to treat and often occur in catheter treated urinary tract infections.

Maple syrup extract also showed a capacity to reduce gene expression in genes of the bacteria linked to resistance and virulence.

The researchers say that maple syrup by enhancing antibiotic effectiveness might be able to reduce the amounts of antibiotics used and they even suggest that maple syrup extracts may one day be included in antibiotic capsules. If maple syrup can in fact help reduce antibiotic resistance then that is sweet news indeed.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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