Adding a bit of syrup to your pancakes keeps the brain healthy, new research suggests.

Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, Calif., reveals that maple syrup helps protect brain cells against brain damage caused by neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

Lead researcher Donald Weaver, of the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto, and his team discovered an extract in maple syrup that prevented the misfolding and clumping of beta amyloid and tau peptide, two types of proteins in neurons that play a significant role in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Previous studies show disruption cellular protein folding increases the risk of beta amyloid and tau peptide to link together and generate harmful plaque linked to Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

Other studies presented at the research symposium revealed that pure maple syrup significantly helped animals modeled after Alzheimer's disease.

One study found that a compound in maple syrup helped protect rodent brain cells by preventing the tangling of beta amyloid proteins. The compound also stalled the decline of microglial cells in the brains of experimental rodents. Previous research has linked declines in microglial brain cell function to dementia and other neurological problems.

Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Texas State University, revealed that the maple syrup extract significantly increased the lifespan of Alzheimer's roundworm model.

"Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combatting Alzheimer's disease," said symposium organizer and researcher Navindra P. Seeram. "And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer's disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine."

"The Federation and the 7300 Quebec maple enterprisers are committed to investing in scientific research to help better understand the link between food and health," added Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. "This has been demonstrated by a robust and carefully guided research program that started in 2005 to explore the potential health benefits of pure maple syrup."

He continued: "We already know that maple has more than 100 bioactive compounds, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Brain health is the latest topic of exploration and we look forward to learning more about the potential benefits that maple syrup might have in this area."