Pure maple syrup extract may help protect brain cells against the kind of damage found in Alzheimer's disease, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have claimed.
A study by Dr Donald Weaver, from the University of Toronto, found that an extract of maple syrup may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells - beta amyloid and tau peptide.
When cellular proteins fold improperly and clump together, they accumulate and form the plaque that is involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.
Another study conducted by the University of Rhode Island, in collaboration with researchers at Texas State University, showed that a pure maple syrup extract prevented the fibrillation (tangling) of beta amyloid proteins and exerted neuroprotective effects in rodent's microglial brain cells.
Scientists have found that a decrease in microglial brain cell function is associated with Alzheimer's disease and other neurological problems.
The maple syrup extract also prolonged the lifespan of an Alzheimer's roundworm model in vivo, researchers said.
"Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combating Alzheimer's disease," said Navindra P Seeram from the University of Rhode Island, who led the second study.
"And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer's disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine," said Seeram.
"However, further animal and eventually human studies would be required to confirm these initial findings," he said.
These preliminary findings help support discoveries made over the past few years on the inherent properties of pure maple syrup that comes directly from the sap of the maple tree, making it an all-natural product with unique health benefits, researchers said.
"We already know that maple has more than 100 bioactive compounds, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
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," said Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that impairs daily functioning through gradual loss of memory.
The studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, US.