If you’ve picked up a bottle of maple syrup lately, you may have had a similar experience. It’s not your eyes fooling you: the grading system of maple syrup has changed. The new regulations began in Vermont last winter, and a few weeks ago the USDA revised its standards to match. Grades B and C are out; four (very wordy) levels of Grade A are in.
Obviously, the glaring disparity observed here is due to the fact that not all “sugar” is alike. The difference, for instance, between glucose, fructose, and sucrose is highly significant, on both a chemical and metabolic level. Also, food is a source of information that has gene-modulatory and regulatory functions. This means that one can not reduce the informational/qualitative aspects of any food down to its nutritional composition which is primarily understood in terms of strictly quantitative macronutrient and micronutrient profiles.
In theory then, making maple syrup is not a complex operation. In fact, syrup production is physically demanding, labor intensive, time-consuming, and messy.
The season of production spans the bridge http://www.huffingtonpost.com/layne-lieberman/maple-syrup-says-no-forma_b_6097930.html between winter and spring, which in Vermont tends to be a very wet and muddy time of year. It’s accepted around here that we actually have five seasons in Vermont, the 5th being “Mud Season.” Mud Season comes at the end of winter when copious amounts of melting snow and ice create muddy conditions just about everywhere. This of course is the time of year when we make maple syrup!
When you add in this all important nutritional context, particularly the role that food plays as both a delivery system and a source for a set of co-factors for appropriate metabolism and utilization, a “sugar” will behave far differently than when it is consumed in isolation, especially when consumed in the biologically inappropriate quantities characteristic of the modern Western diet. Another example is honey, which is also high in sucrose but does not act like regular purified “sugar” either. In fact, not only does honey not appear to act as a “fuel” for aerobic glycolysis (the preferred metabolic mode of cancer cells) as does purified fructose, but I recently reported on its potential as an anti-cancer agent, and with applications perhaps especially relevant to breast cancer.
The new grades don’t perfectly line up with the old grades. Rather, they overlap. So the new Grade A: Amber Color & Rich Flavor encompasses all of what used to be Grade A: Medium Amber along with a bit of what used to be labeled Grade A: Dark Amber. Likewise, Grade A: Dark Color & Robust Flavor accounts for the rest of what used to be Dark Amber along with all of what used to be Grade B.