Dvortygirl via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Dvortygirl via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Canadian Scientists Find Medicinal Properties in Maple Syrup Compound

Dvortygirl via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Dvortygirl via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists say they have found potential medicinal properties in a maple syrup molecule.

Quebecol, a chemical compound with the most Canadian name ever, was first discovered in 2011. Quebecol is only found in maple syrup, not sap, which suggests that the compound is a product of the extraction or processing stages.

Other researchers began testing the molecule to find out what it could do, and some of the resulting studies suggested that quebecol might have potential as an anti-cancer drug. One study noted that it displays some similarity to tamoxifen, an antiestrogen drug often used to treat breast cancer.

To find out more, scientists at Quebec City’s Université Laval created a petri dish model of inflammation in the body. "We take blood cells called macrophages and put them with bacterial toxins," researcher Daniel Grenier said in a press release. "Macrophages usually react by triggering an inflammatory response. But if the culture medium contains an anti-inflammatory molecule, this response is blocked."

The researchers found that adding quebecol to the petri dish stopped inflammation before it even started. The same was true for synthetic quebecol-like chemicals. The research team published its findings in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters. As quoted in the press release, chemist and co-author Normand Voyer said, "This paves the way for a whole new class of anti-inflammatory agents, inspired by quebecol, that could compensate for the low efficacy of certain treatments while reducing the risk of side effects.”

Not too shabby, eh?

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
Toddlers Are Now Eating as Much Added Sugar as Adults
iStock
iStock

We know excessive amounts of added sugar can lurk in foods ranging from ketchup to juices to “health foods” like protein bars. We also know Americans get too much of it, often consuming up to 19 teaspoons daily, exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 6 to 9 teaspoons a day. That adds up to 66 ill-advised pounds of the stuff per year.

A new study that came out of the American Society for Nutrition’s conference last week demonstrates an even more alarming trend: Toddlers are eating nearly as much sugar every day as is recommended for adults.

The study, which was organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined survey data collected between 2011 and 2014 for 800 kids aged 6 to 23 months. Based on parental reporting of their food intake, the tiny subjects between 12 and 18 months old took in an average 5.5 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Older kids, aged 19 to 23 months, consumed 7.1 teaspoons. That’s at or near the recommended intake for a fully grown adult.

In addition to health risks including weight gain and reduced immune system function, sugar-slurping babies stand a greater chance of carrying that craving with them into adulthood, where complications like diabetes and heart problems can be waiting. The AHA recommends that parents avoid giving their kids sweetened drinks and snacks and look out for creative nutritional labels that disguise sugar with words like “sucrose” or “corn sweetener.”

[[h/t Quartz]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Science Has a Good Explanation For Why You Can't Resist That Doughnut
iStock
iStock

Unless you’re one of those rare people who doesn’t like sweets, the lure of a glazed or powdered doughnut is often too powerful to resist. The next time you succumb to that second or third Boston cream, don’t blame it on weak willpower—blame it on your brain.

As the New Scientist reports, a Yale University study published in the journal Cell Metabolism provides new evidence that foods rich in both carbohydrates and fats fire up the brain’s reward center more than most foods. For the study, volunteers were shown pictures of carb-heavy foods (like candy), fatty foods (like cheese), and foods high in both (like doughnuts). They were then asked to bid money on the food they wanted to eat most, all while researchers measured their brain activity.

Not only were volunteers willing to pay more for doughnuts and similar foods, but foods high in carbs and fat also sparked far more activity in the striatum, the area of the brain where dopamine is released. (Chocolate is one of the foods most commonly associated with increases in dopamine, working in the same way as drugs like cocaine and amphetamines.)

Presented with these findings, researcher Dana Small theorized that the brain may have separate systems to assess fats and carbs. Modern junk foods that activate both systems at once may trigger a larger release of dopamine as a result.

This study doesn’t entirely explain why different people crave different foods, though. Much of it has to do with our habits and the foods we repeatedly gravitate towards when we want to feel happy or alleviate stress. Another study from 2015 found that certain treats associated with high levels of reward in the brain—like pizza, chocolate, chips, and cookies—were considered to be the most addictive foods (doughnuts didn’t make the top 20, though).

It's still possible to turn down foods that are bad for you, though. While many people try to improve their self-control, one of the most effective ways to avoid an undesired outcome is to remove the temptation completely. Free doughnuts in the break room? Stay far away.

[h/t New Scientist]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios