Advisory: Give yourself extra time when travelling by car to Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, or Toronto Rehab University Centre. City of Toronto construction on University Ave. may cause delays.
At UHN, we strive to deliver Compassionate Care & Caring. Learn more about the services and supports that are available to you throughout your journey.
Our UHN programs and services are among the most advanced in the world. We have grouped our physicians,
staff, services and resources into 10 medical programs to meet the needs of our patients and help us make
the most of our resources.
At the heart of everything we do at UHN are our Healthcare Professionals. Refer a patient to one of our 12 medical programs. Learn more about the resources and opportunities available for professional growth.
University Health Network has grown to be one of the largest research and teaching hospital networks in Canada - pioneers in improving the lives of patients. Our long history of health professions education at Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto Rehab hospitals has consistently advanced the science of education.
University Health Network is a health care and medical research organization in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The scope of research and complexity of cases at UHN has made us a national and international
source for discovery, education and patient care.
Being touched by illness affects us in different ways. Many people want to give back to the community
and help others. At UHN, we welcome your contribution and offer different ways you can help so you can find one that suits you.
The Newsroom is the source for media looking for information about UHN or trying to connect with one
of our experts for an interview. It's also the place to find UHN media policies and catch up on our news stories, videos, media releases,
podcasts and more.
Maple syrup is proving to be more than just a tasty way to start the day. It is also showing the potential to protect against Alzheimer's disease.
Research conducted by Dr. Donald Weaver, Director at the Krembil Research Institute, found an extract in the Canadian breakfast staple could help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells that are associated with Alzheimer's.
The research sparked worldwide attention after Dr. Weaver discussed the findings with fellow scientists at a gathering of the American Chemical Society in San Diego earlier this month. His talk has resulted in a tidal wave of interview requests and media attention.
Dr. Weaver sat down with UHN News to discuss his research findings and the level of interest they created.
When did you come up with the idea of studying maple syrup?
People think about the health benefits of red wine because it contains resveratrol and they think about curcumin because it is found in curries. Those things have the ability to prevent the two proteins implicated in Alzheimer's disease, beta amyloid and tau peptide, from clumping and misfolding.
So we went looking for other polyphenols that we hoped would have the capacity to be better than resveratrol and curcumin.
How does maple syrup fit into this situation?
One of the things that differentiates maple syrup polyphenols from the polyphenols found in red wine, or grapes or blueberries, is that the sap is boiled for hours, which creates different polyphenols. Maple syrup has a range of polyphenols not found in other materials just because it's processed and handled differently.
So boiling the sap changes the properties?
Yes, if you look at the polyphenols in sap and you look at the polyphenols in maple syrup, they are two different things. So, you have done a whole bunch of synthetic chemistry just by boiling it. We thought this would give us access to some interesting compounds.
How was this research funded?
This research is unfunded. In fact, I didn't want to put it on any of my grants because I don't have grants to do it. So, I took $40 out of my wallet and handed it to the technician in the lab and said 'Go buy some maple syrup.'
This was driven by your own curiosity about the properties of maple syrup?
Yes. This is a neat project. I remember at the time the technician and I were joking, 'Well, you can't get much more Canadian than this, eh?'
Is this ongoing research or is it something that you've tabled for the time being?
We haven't worked on this for months. We did the research, wrote the paper, got it published, but it's not funded. The next steps are going to be expensive.
Would you like to continue to pursue this, if the funding is available?
Yes, if someone were to fund this work, I would be happy to continue. I'd be looking at maple syrup, I'd be looking at birch syrup. It's a natural product.
Were you surprised by the level of media interest in your research?
Yes, this was a side project for us and I wasn't expecting it to get any media attention at all. The paper had been sitting out there for months and nobody paid any attention to it.
Have you had this level of interest about research in your lab before?
Certainly we've never had this degree of interest in any one of our projects.
My lab is a chemistry lab. We make drugs. We've had interest on other topics in the past, but the hardcore, mainstream research that the lab receives funding for is rarely covered because it can be perceived as dull work as we try to come up with a drug for Alzheimer's disease.
So do you like maple syrup?
Oh God, yes, I love maple syrup. It's great. When I was a kid, and when my kids were young, I used to take them to the maple syrup bush.
I don't take it for health benefits, but I do love it.