Functionality and characteristics of the substances contained in the Japanese maple - a summary
- Japanese and Chinese research on the prevention of metabolic syndrome has led to the discovery of a new substance in the Japanese maple.
- The substance can be expected to moderately absorb sugar and fat.
- It is also expected to prevent oxidation of the body.
- The Japanese maple contains 15% polyphenols (more than green tea).
- The Japanese maple contains about the same amount of anthocyanins as blueberries (about 1%).
Health effects of polyphenols contained in the Japanese maple
Atsushi Honma, phD
President, Maple Lab Inc.
President, Maple Lab Inc.
In recent years, aging due to lifestyle-related diseases, ultraviolet rays and mental stress has come to be regarded as a problem. Foods with various presumed health benefits are attracting attention for the purpose of preventing these problems. In particular, polyphenols contained in fruits and vegetables have been reported to have various beneficial effects on the body, including antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. Foods containing polyphenols are increasingly thought to have health benefits, as well as supplements containing such active ingredients. Smoothies for directly ingesting vegetables are also popular. In recent years, health consciousness has become a strong trend, especially among women and seniors.
The idea of eating Japanese maple (Iroha momiji, Ōmomiji) dates back to when I studied the effects of foods as a student. I’m interested in marine life, so I enrolled at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. I was assigned to the substance research team for metabolic syndrome. In the process of evaluating substances for their effectiveness with regards to stemming metabolic syndrome we investigated thousands of marine organisms and plants. We collected and studied maple leaves that had been planted outside the laboratory window, and as a result, we found substances that may help in treating diabetes and obesity in maple trees. We concluded that the substances may help suppress those illnesses. Specifically, we found that they could suppress sugar and fat absorption into the body and inhibit obesity by suppressing antihyperglycemic agents and fat absorption enzymes. We were also able to find high antioxidant activity in the substances. I felt that the Japanese maple had a high potential as a food with health benefits, and founded the Maple Lab as a research institute.
As a result of isolating and purifying the antihyperglycemic component using an analytical instrument and analyzing the molecular structure, we have identified corirazine as one of the contained polyphenols. So far, it has been reported that it has antioxidant, antihypertensive and anticancer effects. It was also suggested that maple polyphenols have an anti-obesity effect. The Japanese maple contains 15% or more polyphenols. Among those are anthocyanin, the functional ingredient that is the cause of the red color of the maple, as well as several other functional ingredients such as lutein and β carotene which is the source of the yellow color.
These ingredients are expected to have highly antioxidant effects which are useful in eye care and the suppression of cancer. Other reports mention the presence of a flavonoid (a type of polyphenol) component called luteolin or vitexin. Feeling the need to pursue the research on its possible health benefits, we are still investigating the functionality and components of the Japanese maple and Japanese maple leaves at the university's pharmacy department, and continue to make new discoveries. We are also conducting research in collaboration with other universities. For example, we are conducting research on the anthocyanins peculiar to maple and functionality that appear only in certain seasons, as well as the classification of maple plants by genetic information, and the substances contained in maple plants.
In autumn, the Japanese maple leaves turn from red to orange and yellow, giving beauty to the landscape, soothing our hearts. We believe they can also help make your body healthier in the future. I think it is a healthy food that can steer us towards "wa" - that is, harmony.
Apart from helping spread a wider understanding of the health benefits of the Japanese maple, we also enjoy the beautiful red color and shape of its leaves which symbolize Japan. We are planting the trees in abandoned cultivated land and degraded forests, thereby revitalizing agriculture, improving the environment, and creating a unique maple town in Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture. This is our company’s vision for the future.