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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Honey: How Sweet It Is


Honey is flower nectar concentrated by bees flapping their wings. It's also a simple carbohydrate. But unlike other simple carbohydrates, it has health benefits and unexpected effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

In 2004 a study compared the effects of real honey produced by bees to an artificial honey solution made up of dextrose and fructose in the same proportions as honey. After volunteers consumed one or the other for 15 days, researchers found that compared to the same amount of artificial honey, the real honey:
  • Caused significantly lower rises in blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Reduced levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker 
  • Decreased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood associated with cardiovascular disease
  • Increased HDL cholesterol 
  • Decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
  • Decreased triglycerides

The artificial honey solution was associated with higher blood levels of glucose and insulin, and increased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

Honey can also be used to reduce symptoms of environmental allergies. Eating local honey reduces allergic sensitivity to flowering plants in the area where the bees gathered the nectar.

And honey can be used topically to help wounds heal. A study in Nigeria found that skin abscesses (deep infections) dressed with gauze soaked in raw, unpasteurized honey healed faster than abscesses given standard antiseptic care, resulting in shorter hospital stays. 

References:

Al-Waili N.S. 2004. Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose. Journal of Medicinal Food 7(1):100-7.

Cordain L et al. 2005. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81(2): 341-354.

Okeniyi, John AO et al. 2005. Comparison of healing of incised abscess wounds with honey and EUSOL dressing. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11(3):511-513.

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