Maple syrup to improve animal health

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)
A probiotic made from maple syrup with flavor defects could theoretically enrich the gut microbiota of farm animals, improve their resistance to disease and reduce the need for antibiotics

Approximately 2% of the 200 million pounds of maple syrup produced each year in Quebec suffers from a flavor defect that makes it more suitable for use as an ingredient in processed products than for consumption in its natural state. A team from Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke is proposing to use some of this syrup to produce a probiotic that could replace antibiotics in animal breeding. In the scientific journal Fermentation, they have just presented evidence that their idea makes sense.

"Maple syrup produced at the end of the season has the most flavour defects, notably bud-like flavour and filamentous syrup. However, it is also the richest in nutrients and antioxidant molecules," points out one of the study’s signatories, Marie Filteau , professor in the Department of Food Science and researcher at Université Laval’s Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods.

To determine the potential of processed maple syrup for probiotic production, the researchers used it as an ingredient in a culture medium into which they inoculated Bacillus velezensis, a bacterium renowned for its production of antimicrobial molecules against plant pathogens. "The idea was to create a feed supplement containing this bacterium to enrich the intestinal microbiota of farm animals, improve their resistance to disease and thus reduce the need for antibiotics," explains Prof. Filteau.

Culture tests were conclusive, with the researchers achieving concentrations of 6 billion bacteria per milliliter. The resulting liquid was mixed with whey permeate and sprayed into powder form. "It is this supplement that could be added to animal feed," explains Prof. Filteau.

To determine whether these bacteria can make it safely into the animals’ intestines, the researchers subjected this probiotic to transit through an in vitro digestive system. The result? Around 16% of the bacteria survived the digestion process. "Considering the starting abundance, we arrive at concentrations of one billion bacteria per gram. This is more than is recommended to produce probiotic effects in animals", stresses the researcher.

In the light of these results, the researchers carried out tests on piglets. "The results have not yet been published, but they are very encouraging. What’s more, a techno-economic study should shed light on the economic feasibility of using processed maple syrup to produce a probiotic supplement for animal feed," concludes Prof. Filteau.

This research stems from the doctoral work of Gautier Decabooter. The authors of the study, published in the journal Fermentation, are Gautier Decabooter, Marie Filteau and Ismail Fliss, from Université Laval, and Mariem Theiri and Denis Groleau, from Université de Sherbrooke.