If you’re weaning off sugar, you may have encountered date syrup. It’s thick, dark brown and super-sweet, and it’s commonly used for cooking in the Middle East, to add flavour to everything from chicken dishes to desserts.
But new research suggests that date syrup might be more than a tasty marinade, and could actually contain chemical compounds that help ward off a number of bacterial infections, including those caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
Hajer Taleb, a research student from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, decided to test the effect of of date syrup produced in Basra in southern Iraq on colonies of bacteria growing in a petri dish.
He identified that the date syrup contained a number of phenolic compounds that form naturally in the date fruit as it matures. These compounds, which are present in other fruits such as grapes used for winemaking, can influence the flavour, colour and texture of the syrup, and are known for their antioxidant potential. And now they're being shown to have antibacterial activity, too.
Taleb also showed that artificial syrups, which are made from the constituent sugars found in dates but lack the phenolic compounds, were not as effective at inhibiting bacterial growth.
“While this work is currently in vitro, it suggests that date syrup could exhibit health benefits through its antibacterial activities, similar, or in some cases, better than honey” Ara Kanekanian, a food technology expert and Taleb's supervisor, said in a press release.
While the research is still in the laboratory stage, Taleb and Kanekanian anticipate that date syrup could find clinical applications similar to honey as a topical disinfectant for wounds, used alone or in conjunction with bandages.