Bradford S. Weeks, M.D. science editor, past-President and founding member of the American Apitherapy Society has an ongoing passion to bring the benefits of apitherapy out of the hive and into the home so as to remind people of the safe and effective qualities of these ancient folk-remedies. He offers a regular column describing the scientific rationale for various aspects of apitherapy. For more information see www.weeksmd.com and direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bee Well!
COLUMN: The Science behind Apitherapy
TOPIC: Raw Honey
Title: Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose.
This study included the following experiments:
(1) effects of dextrose solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of dextrose) or honey solution (250 mL of water containing 75 g of natural honey) on plasma glucose level (PGL), plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide (eight subjects);
(2) effects of dextrose, honey, or artificial honey (250 mL of water containing 35 g of dextrose and 40 g of fructose) on cholesterol and triglycerides (TG) (nine subjects);
(3) effects of honey solution, administered for 15 days on PGL, blood lipids, C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine (eight subjects);
(4) effects of honey or artificial honey on cholesterol and TG in six patients with hypercholesterolemia and five patients with hypertriglyceridemia;
(5) effects of honey for 15 days on blood lipid and CRP in five patients with elevated cholesterol and CRP;
(6) effects of 70 g of dextrose or 90 g of honey on PGL in seven patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus; and
(7) effects of 30 g of sucrose or 30 g of honey on PGL, plasma insulin, and plasma C-peptide in five (type 1 or 2? THE STUDY DIDN’T SAY) diabetic patients.
- In healthy subjects
- a) dextrose elevated PGL 53% at 1 and 3% at 2 hours, and decreased PGL 20% after 3 hours.
- Honey elevated PGL 14% after 1 hour and decreased it 10% after 3 hours.
- Elevation of insulin and C-peptide was significantly higher after dextrose than after honey.
- Dextrose and artificial honey both reduced cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) and increased TG. Honey also reduced cholesterol and LDL-C, however, it reduced TG and slightly elevated high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C).
- Honey (how much? I DON’T KNOW ) consumed for 15 days decreased cholesterol (7%), LDL-C (1%), TG (2%), CRP (7%), homocysteine (6%), and PGL (6%), and increased HDL-C (2%). (were these significant statistically p<0.05 or just trends? I DON’T KNOW)
- In patients with hyper-triglyceridemia:
- artificial honey increased TG, while honey decreased TG.
- In patients with hyperlipidemia:
- artificial honey increased LDL-C, while honey decreased LDL-C.
- In diabetic patients (type 1 or 2?):
- Honey decreased cholesterol (8%), LDL-C (11%), and CRP (75%) after 15 days.
- Honey compared with dextrose caused a significantly lower rise of PGL.
- Elevation of PGL was greater after honey than after sucrose at 30 minutes, but was lower at 60, 120, and 180 minutes.
- Honey caused greater elevation of insulin than sucrose did after 30, 120, and 180 minutes.
Conclusions of the authors were that:
- Honey reduces blood lipids, homocysteine, and CRP in normal and hyperlipidemic subjects.
- Honey caused lower elevation of plasma glucose levels (PGL) in diabetics compared to dextrose and sucrose.
Dr. Weeks’ Comment:
Here we have a well-designed study which delights us in its counter-intuitive conclusion: honey really does help treat diabetes! (Brad- does it really help treat diabetes or is it just better for diabetics than the other sugars- SEE ABOVE ANDREW: HONEY CAUSED LOWER LEVEL ELEVATION OF PLASMA GLUCOSE LEVELS….) Not surprisingly, other sweeteners did not show any health benefits. For example, dextrose in water, artificial “honey” (dextrose and fructose) and sucrose (white sugar) caused harm. But raw honey, the good stuff, lowered blood sugar as well as lowering OK risk factors for heart disease (total cholesterol,“bad” LDL cholesterol, homocysteine and the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein). Honey also raised the “good” HDL cholesterol. So sweeten with raw honey and stop all that artificial stuff that increases so many health risks.
Years ago, Charlie Mraz knew that diabetics could eat raw honey and have no problems. He explained that raw honey, a peptide rich living food, was a complex carbohydrate which needed enzymatic processing in the liver (by an invertase enzyme) in order to metabolize the honey into bio-available simple sugars of sucrose and fructose.
This is a “slow-burning” sugar, a stick-to-your-ribs enzyme rich food which does not strain the pancreas (does no harm) while at the same time delivering nutrients and amino acids.
BONUS: Aside from eating this wonderful gift of the bees, I use honey in my clinic for a variety of other purposes. I have used it successfully topically for acceleration of wound repair (suture, bed sores, burns, ulcers); as an antibiotic (pink eye, infected wounds); as a skin treatment for acne and youthful glowing skin (honey is both an alpha- and beta-hydroxyl acid for mild peeling and detergent effects) and most impressively intranasally to unclog sinuses and to create the wave of death to those resident bacteria and viri which cause sore throats. As the wave of raw honey runs down the nostrils and becomes a sweet post-nasal drip, it disinfects and rejuvenates the nasal pharyngeal tissue. Yes, IT STINGS (to the degree that your tissue is inflamed), but in my 20 years of practice I have never seen anything help sore throats like raw honey (which contains glucose oxidase which converts to 20 parts per million of hydrogen peroxide.) As my teenagers say…. “Sweeeeeeeet!!!! “