Date syrup is a dark-coloured and deep-textured natural sweetener that is squeezed out of fresh and fleshy dates. It's most commonly found in the Middle East but also available in health stores around the world.
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According to the research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Annual Conference in Birmingham, UK, date syrup has antibacterial properties and can fight against a number of disease-causing bacteria. This includes bacteria like Staph aureus which is one of the leading causes of skin and soft tissue infections and E coli which is usually found in a person's lower intestine.
Research found that date syrup is able to inhibit the growth of bacteria faster than manuka honey, which has previously been shown to have antibacterial properties and is increasingly used in dressings to improve wound repair.
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Hajer Taleb, a research student from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK, identified that the date syrup contains a number of phenolic compounds that form naturally in the date fruit as it matures.
These compounds have previously been shown to have antibacterial activity. Artificial syrup made of the constituent sugars found in natural syrup but lacking the phenolic compounds was not as effective at inhibiting bacterial growth.
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In vitro results showed that date syrup produced traditionally in Basra, Southern Iraq, has antibacterial activity comparable to manuka honey. When the syrup was mixed with a range of disease-causing bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus spp and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, it inhibited their growth. The date syrup was effective in similar amounts to manuka honey but worked more quickly, inhibiting bacterial growth after six hours of treatment, while the manuka honey required longer.
According to Dr Ara Kanekanian, lead researcher from Cardiff Metropolitan University, "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. At this stage, this has mainly been attributed to the presence of phenolic compounds. However, until further research is undertaken, we caution people against using the syrup to treat wounds."
With inputs from PTI