Phenols Found to Be a Health Benefit of Maple Syrup

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, September 21, 2011, abstracted from “Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup” in the Journal of Functional Foods

Phenols are compounds found in a wide variety of foods ranging from red wine to olive oil to green tea and almonds.  The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of phenols (1) benefit a wide variety of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (2) and Alzheimer’s Disease (3).  Phenols are thought to be the primary health benefit of olive oil consumption, with benefits seen for breast cell health (4), bone health (5), and cholesterol health (6).  Now a new study (7) has identified another food with health-promoting phenols: maple syrup. 

Numerous studies have shown maple syrup extracts to have antioxidant and healthy cell production properties (8, 9) in addition to being of “great economic interest” to the United States and Canada as they are the world’s only two worldwide producers.  And since maple syrup is a popular sweetener worldwide, knowing the chemical identification of maple syrup constituents is of “great scientific interest”.

In the study, researchers identified 23 naturally occurring phenolic compounds in maple syrup. The most plentiful phenol identified is one not naturally occurring but actually thought to be formed during the maple syrup production process, quebecol.  A 2007 study showed that “during the intensive heating process required to transform the sap into syrup, a complex cocktail of both native phenolics (originally present in the xylem sap) and derived compounds (formed through chemical reactions during processing) ultimately ends up in maple syrup” (10).

While the researchers did not do any further tests on quebecol, they concluded that “Our finding of a non-natural phenolic compound in maple syrup is interesting, considering that such molecules may contribute significantly towards the reported biological activities of maple syrup.” (11)  And with the continued recognition of phenols as playing a role in human health promotion and disease prevention, research on maple syrup phenols is sure to continue.

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com


1. “Antibacterial effect of phenolic compounds from peat moss and the polysaccharide chitosan” - http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-09-antibacterial-effect-phenolic-compounds-peat.html
2. “Green Tea May Help Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis” - http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/120808.htm
3. “Grape Seed Extract May Help Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's” - http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/062408.htm
4. Menendez JA. Anti-HER2 (erbB-2) oncogene effects of phenolic compounds directly isolated from commercial Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)”. BMC Cancer 2008, 8:377 doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-377
5. Santiago-Mora R. Oleuropein enhances osteoblastogenesis and inhibits adipogenesis: the effect on differentiation in stem cells derived from bone marrow. Osteop Int 2010. DOI: 10.1007/s00198-010-1270-x
6. de la Torre-Carbot K. Elevated Circulating LDL Phenol Levels in Men Who Consumed Virgin Rather Than Refined Olive Oil Are Associated with Less Oxidation of Plasma LDL. Jou Nutr 2010; 140 (3): 501-508
7. Li L.  Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup.  Jou Functional Foods 2011; 3: 125-128
8. Legault, J. Antioxidant Activity inhibition of nitric oxide overproduction, and in vitro antiproliferative effect of maple sap and syrup from Acer saccharum. Journal of Medicinal Foods 2010; 13: 460–468
9. Theirault, M. Antioxidant, antiradical and antimutagenic activities of phenolic compounds present in maple products. Food Chemistry 2006; 98, 490–501.
10. Ball, D. W. (2007). The chemical composition of maple syrup. Journal of Chemical Education 2007; 84: 1647–1650.
11. Shahidi, F., & Ho, C.-T. (Eds.). (2005). Phenolic compounds in foods and natural health products. ACS symposium series 909. Washington DC, USA: American Chemical Society