Replacing some refined sugar with maple syrup would reduce metabolic harm

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)
In mice, partial substitution reduces refined sugar digestion, intestinal glucose absorption and lipid accumulation in the liver

Replacing some of the refined sugar we consume every day with maple syrup could alleviate some of the negative effects of a diet rich in fats and sugars. At least, that’s what a study published by a Laval University team in theAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests. In fact, these researchers have shown that, in mice, maple syrup reduces the digestion of refined sugar, the intestinal absorption of glucose and the accumulation of lipids in the liver.

To demonstrate this, the researchers compared two groups of mice fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet. "In one group, we replaced around a quarter of the refined sugar (sucrose) intake with maple syrup. This represents 10% of the total calories consumed daily by these mice. We chose this percentage because it corresponds to what can be envisaged as a dietary modification in humans", explains study leader André Marette , professor in the Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec Research Centre and at the Institut sur la nutrition et les aliments fonctionnels.

After a few weeks on this diet, the researchers tested the mice for insulin resistance and glucose tolerance. "We found that glucose metabolism was less impaired in mice consuming maple syrup. In addition, we observed that the livers of these mice had triglyceride concentrations almost half as high as the livers of mice that had not consumed maple syrup," summarizes Professor Marette.

According to the researcher, this lower hepatic accumulation of triglycerides results from reduced activity of an enzyme, intestinal alpha-glucosidase. This enzyme splits sucrose into monosaccharides (glucose and fructose). "The result is that there are fewer absorbed carbohydrates passing into the bloodstream, so less hyperglycemia, and fewer carbohydrates transformed into triglycerides in the liver."

An analysis of intestinal microbiota revealed an association between maple syrup consumption and the abundance of three species of bacteria(F. rodentium, R. ilealis and L. johnsonii). "These are bacteria that are little known in the management of metabolic diseases, but they possess gene clusters that are involved in sugar metabolism. We plan to study their role in the positive metabolic effects we observed in mice consuming maple syrup instead of sucrose", stresses the researcher.

"We’re certainly not suggesting curing diabetes with maple syrup. What we are finding is that maple syrup, a natural sweetener, mitigates some of the negative effects of refined sugar consumption."

-- André Marette This study must be interpreted with caution, warns the researcher. "We are certainly not suggesting treating diabetes with maple syrup. What we find is that maple syrup, a natural sweetener, mitigates some of the negative effects of refined sugar consumption. It could therefore be beneficial to replace some of the sucrose in our diet with maple syrup. We have in fact tested this hypothesis in human subjects and should be able to publish the results by the end of 2024."

The other signatories of the study, published in theAmerican Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, are Arianne Morissette, Diana Majolli André, Anne-Laure Agrinier, Thibault Varin, Geneviève Pilon, Nicolas Flamand and Vanessa Houde.