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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Maple Syrup Cartel

Did you know there is one?

2 comments:

  1. I did. Canadian thing.
    I prefer the artificial stuff myself.
    Maple sugar is very very high in the sweetest form of sugar.

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    1. Sucrose (i.e. "table sugar") comprises about 90% of sugars contained in maple syrup. Sucrose, being a disaccharide, is a 50/50 combination of glucose and fructose (monosaccharides). Fructose (a monosaccharide), in it's simple state, is actually slightly more sweet than sucrose, and quite a bit more sweet than glucose. Maple syrup is actually pretty comparable to other sugar-dominant foods (regarding its balance of glucose and fructose). Probably one of the sweetest things that is unfortunately very popular today is agave nectar, which can be up to 90% fructose.

      I say unfortunately because many people are of the belief that because agave is minimally processed that it is better for you than other sugars, and tend to overuse it. Without going into the details of fructose metabolism (the wiki on fructose is actually pretty decent), I'll just say that fructose can be very detrimental in high doses, especially if those doses are continued over long periods of time (years). However, if you want to fatten up, it's very good for that when paired with more insulin respondent sugars (which is almost always the case in fructose-containing foods).

      I don't have any facts for support, but I would tend to think that fructose metabolism helping to promote weight gain was a good adaption to have, especially when considering that in a state of nature most of the high-fructose containing foods where only available in a window between mid-summer and mid-autumn (i.e. in the period that you'd want to fatten up for winter. Obviously, maple syrup is an exception due to its being harvested in the spring.

      I personally don't eat much sugar, but I do like to have some raw honey on occasion. Usually when I do eat sugar containing foods it is after a hard workout in order to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles. Fructose tends to not induce as much of an insulin response as other sugars (even though it is sweeter), and most of the fructose that is converted to glucose is predominantly stored in the liver, so it isn't very good for the purpose of muscle glycogen replenishment. Starches tend to be very good, because they are very easily converted into simple glucose (they're essentially a glucose bond), and they induce a decent insulin spike (which aids in quickly shuttling the free glucose in the blood into the muscles).

      Obviously, glucose is probably best, because it is already in the state that is used for the body's primary sugar metabolism, but generally few foods are purely glucose-containing with regard to the level of simple carbohydrates contained within them (though you can buy glucose gel packs, which is quite popular with athletes today).

      Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah ... cartels.

      I will say that I was very surprised that Quebec had 77% of the world market, that's pretty crazy considering how many sugar maples there are in North America. Quebec does take up a pretty large area, though. Vermont is really just a splash in the pond as America's largest syrup producer, I guess. I tend to find that syrups from Vermont have a bit of a fuller flavor, one that better balances the sweetness, but that is just my preference. Ohio syrups are far too "woody" tasting, and lack sweetness. I wonder if the state of Vermont has a cartel-like system for their syrup production.

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