Nosestretcher alert: Maple syrup could help cut use of antibiotics

Last year all the rage, for a day, was that eating pizza could prevent norovirus. Except that’s not really what the research was about. Today’s concentrated-extract-has-antibiotic-properties story comes from McGill University where researchers have evaluated the effects of maple syrup on human pathogens.

Except not really.syrup

According to the university’s news website, an upcoming publication shows that a phenolic heavy extract made from maple syrup (not maple syrup itself) was ‘mildly effective; against E. coli and Proteus mirabilis.

I’m not sure what mildly means.

The release also says that there was a synergistic effect when used in conjunction with actual antibiotics.

Synergistic wasn’t really defined.

Prof. Nathalie Tufenkji’s research team in McGill’s Department of Chemical Engineering prepared a concentrated extract of maple syrup that consists mainly of phenolic compounds. Maple syrup, made by concentrating the sap from North American maple trees, is a rich source of phenolic compounds.

The researchers tested the extract’s effect in the laboratory on infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection). By itself, the extract was mildly effective in combating bacteria. But the maple syrup extract was particularly effective when applied in combination with antibiotics. The extract also acted synergistically with antibiotics in destroying resistant communities of bacteria known as biofilms, which are common in difficult-to-treat infections, such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans,” Tufenkji says. “But the findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics.”

Of course, the paper isn’t available yet.

Maybe I’ll have a side of pancakes, with maple syrup, with my magic noro-fighting pizza.


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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.