- A new study reveals that honey, unlike other sweeteners, may actually be good for cardiometabolic health.
- The benefits of honey have been revealed in studies of people who followed a heavy diet containing 10% sugar or less.
- The study suggests that honey — especially raw, monofloral honey — may be a healthier replacement for sugar already consumed, rather than an additional sweetener added to daily intake.
Consider replacing the sugar you eat with honey, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto.
For people who follow a healthy diet in which no more than 10% of daily calories come from sugar, honey actually offers cardiometabolic benefits.
The study is a review and meta-analysis of the effects of honey in 18 controlled feeding trials involving 1,105 mostly healthy people.
Taken together, the trials showed that honey lowered fasting (fasting blood sugar levels), total, and “bad” (
While sugars of all kinds are associated with cardiometabolic problems – and honey is 80% sugar – the study authors suggest that honey might be in a category of its own and deserve special attention as a healthy food.
Researchers have found that raw honey and monofloral honey provide the most significant cardiometabolic benefits.
The study appears in Nutrition advice.
Unlike most sweeteners, the sweetness of honey does not come exclusively from common sugars, such as fructose and glucose.
Study co-author Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Khan, a research associate at Temerty School of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada, said Medical News Today:
“About 15% of honey is made up of dozens of rare sugars – for example, isomaltulose, kojibiose, trehalose, melezitose, etc. – which have been shown to have many physiological and metabolic benefits, including improving glucose response, reducing insulin resistance and promoting. [the] growth of bacteria associated with a healthy gut.
Plus, Dr. Khan said, honey contains so much more than just sugars.
This includes, he said, “many bioactive molecules, including polyphenols,
Endocrinologist Dr Ana Maria Kausel, who was not involved in the study, said DTM that she would nevertheless prefer to keep the emphasis on reducing sugar consumption.
“I think the focus should be more on reducing sugar in the diet overall. The benefits were seen after consuming an average of 40 grams for 8 weeks. This amount of sugar is more than the body can treat without involving the liver.We can see similar benefits in [cardiovascular] and metabolic risks without sugar intake, for example the Mediterranean diet,” she pointed out.
Honey products are often pasteurized, unlike raw honey.
Honey is pasteurized for convenience, not safety, because processing slows the natural graining of honey, which can make it harder to pour from a squeeze bottle or measure into a spoon.
Raw honey contains a range of nutrients, including many antioxidants, the amount of which can decrease with pasteurization.
The current study found that raw honey had a particularly positive effect on fasting blood sugar.
Most honey is polyfloral, which means the bees that produce it collect nectar from all nectar-producing plants within 2 to 4 miles of their hive.
Monofloral honey is honey made exclusively from nectar collected by bees from a single type of plant, or even a single plant.
Well-known monofloral honeys include Tupelo Honey – from White Ogeechee Tupelo Trees – Clover Honey, Robinia Honey, and French Lavender Honey. Each has a particular flavor.
Researchers found that monofloral clover and locust honeys reduced LDL cholesterol and overall cholesterol, as well as fasting triglycerides. Clover honey also reduced fasting blood sugar.
Excessive inflammation is increasingly associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, so the study found that honey increased markers of inflammation
However, Dr. Khan suggested that an increase in these markers may actually indicate additional benefits.
“IL-6 may play a role in maintaining good blood sugar control by improving glucose and lipid metabolism throughout the body,” he said. “Similarly, TNF-alpha is an indicator of the body’s innate immune response, so an increase in honey consumption may suggest improved immunity.”
“I’m interested,” Dr. Khan said, “in all natural sweeteners, and I plan to look into maple syrup and, of course, agave syrup. However, there is one major difference between these syrups and honey.
“Syrups like maple syrup and agave are obtained directly from plants, with some human processing using heat, and are mostly composed of common sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose” , he added/
As Dr. Kausel said, “Agave is natural, but it’s fructose at the end of the day.“
“High levels of fructose,” she pointed out, “are bad for the liver, regardless of the source. Even natural juices are harmful to the liver, despite all the vitamins and minerals they may contain.
Yet the way bees make honey adds an interesting twist that makes its sugars different.
“Honey,” Dr. Khan explained, “has an additional step by which the bees intensively process the nectar [which is mainly sucrose] flowers with their enzymes, which results in the production of a wide variety of rare sugars in honey. These rare sugars are the key to the benefits of honey sugars over other natural sugars.
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