Honey improves key measures of cardiometabolic health, study finds

Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that honey improves key measures of cardiometabolic health, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels. especially if the honey is raw and comes from a single flower source.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on honey and found that honey lowered fasting blood sugar, total and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, triglycerides and a marker of fatty liver disease; it also increased HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol and some markers of inflammation.

These results are surprising because about 80 percent of honey is sugar. But honey is also a complex combination of common and rare sugars, proteins, organic acids and other bioactive compounds with likely health benefits.”

Tauseef Khan, senior research fellow in nutritional sciences at U of T’s Temerty School of Medicine

Previous research has shown that honey can improve cardiometabolic health, particularly in vitro and in animal studies. The current study is the most comprehensive review of clinical trials to date and includes the most detailed data on processing and flower sourcing.

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magazine Nutrition Reviews published the findings this week.

“The phrase ‘sugar is sugar’ has long been used among public health and nutrition experts,” said John Sievenpiper, associate professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at U of T, who is also a clinician-scientist at Unity. Health Toronto “These results suggest that this is not the case and they need to put a break from defining honey as free or added sugar in dietary guidelines.”

Sievenpiper and Khan stressed that the context of the findings is critical: clinical trials in which participants followed healthy eating patterns with added sugars corresponding to 10 percent or less of their daily calorie intake.

“We’re not saying you should start eating honey if you’re currently avoiding sugar,” Khan said. “The takeaway is more about substitutions—if you’re using table sugar, syrup, or another sweetener, swapping those sugars for honey can reduce cardiometabolic risks.”

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The researchers included 18 controlled trials and more than 1,100 participants in their analysis. They evaluated the quality of these trials using the GRADE system and found that the certainty of evidence for most of the studies was low, but that honey consistently produced neutral or beneficial effects depending on processing, flower source and quantity.

The average daily dose of honey in the trials was 40 grams, or about two tablespoons. The median trial period was eight weeks. Raw honey provided many of the beneficial effects in research, as did honey from monofloral sources such as Robinia (also marketed as acacia honey); Honey from Black Acacia or Black Acacia Trees -; and alfalfa, common in North America.

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Khan said that processed honey clearly loses most of its health effects after pasteurization; typically 65 degrees Celsius for at least 10 minutes -; The effect of a hot drink on raw honey depends on several factors and probably does not destroy all the beneficial properties of honey.

He also drew attention to other ways to consume unheated honey in yogurt, spreads, and salad dressings.

Khan said future studies should focus on raw honey and a single flower source. The goal will be better quality evidence and a better understanding of the many compounds in honey that can do wonders for health. “We need a consistent product that can deliver consistent health benefits,” Khan said. “Then the market will follow.”


Journal reference:

Ahmed A., et al. (2022) The effect of honey on cardiometabolic risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews. doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuac086.


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