A University of Rhode Island study funded through a two-year, $115,000 grant supplied by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers and Agri-Food Canada has identified more than 50 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup. One of these compound is described as a novel phenolic compound, 2,3,3-tri-(3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-propanol.
That’s not very exciting until you learn that this phenolic compound was assigned the common name quebecol.
Here’s the abstract from The Journal of Functional Foods – it’s all very serious:
Liya Lia and Navindra P. Seeram
Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, United States
The province of Quebec in Canada leads the world’s production of maple syrup, a natural sweetener obtained by thermal evaporation of sap collected from maple (Acer) species. As part of our laboratory’s detailed chemical investigation of Canadian maple syrup, a novel phenolic compound, 2,3,3-tri-(3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl)-1-propanol, assigned the common name of quebecol, was obtained. Quebecol was isolated using a combination of chromatographic methods and identified by detailed 1D and 2D nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectral (MS) analyses. Liquid chromatography mass spectral (LC-MS) analyses revealed that quebecol is not originally present in maple sap. This observation, as well as the lack of a feasible biosynthetic pathway to explain its origin, suggests that quebecol is formed during the processing and/or extraction of maple syrup. Thus, the identification and biological evaluation of non-natural, process-derived compounds in maple syrup are warranted since such molecules may contribute towards the biological activities reported for this natural sweetener.
Not everyone is impressed by this science. The Montreal Gazette quotes Joe Schwarcz, director of the McGill University Office for Science and Society and a popular author and commentator on scientific issues. "This study is of academic interest, and that is all," Schwarcz told Postmedia News. "To suggest that maple syrup is healthy because it contains a number of phenolic compounds is rumpled thinking that needs to be straightened out. Phenolics are not rare — they are abundant in fruits and vegetables."
The thinking might be rumpled but the part that leaves me shaking my head is the name Quebecol. How convenient that academia would brand this compound in a way that clearly benefits the organization that funded the study. The folks in Vermont also produce quite a bit of maple syrup but don’t expect it to be an excellent source of Vermontol any time soon. For Vermont’s perspective on Quebecol, read this article in the Burlington Free Press.