Great news for those who like honey! Even though honey is really sweet (lots of sugars!), eating it actually helps your health. Univ. of Toronto researchers analyzed 18 well done studies and found that honey improved key measures of cardiometabolic health, including blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
These results are interesting because they contrast with other research finding a high intake of sugars (e.g., sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soda) contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, most regulatory agencies, including the World Health Organization, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), include honey within their definition of free or added sugars. And advise limiting intake.
However, honey is not like other sugars. Honey has a complex composition of organic acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, amino acids, and bioactive substances. Rare sugars constitute around 14% of the sugar content of honey. Raw honey also contains probiotic bacteria.
All sorts of studies (in vitro, animal, clinical) have shown that honey has health benefits for cardiometabolic health. Among these benefits are improvements in body weight, inflammation, lipid profile, and glycemic control.
What kind is best? The Univ. of Toronto researchers found that the best health results are found with consumption of raw honey, clover honey, and robinia honey. In other words, honey that is not processed (raw honey) or from only 1 floral source (e.g., clover, acacia/robinia).
How much is best? The median dose consumed was 40 g or about 2 tablespoons daily, usually added to foods or beverages as a sweetener (e.g., in tea, mixed with yogurt, spread on bread) . Enjoy!
From Science Daily: Sweet: Honey reduces cardiometabolic risks, study shows
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 from a single floral source.
The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials on honey, and found that it lowered fasting blood glucose, 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.
"The word among public health and nutrition experts has long been that 'a sugar is a sugar,' said John Sievenpiper, principal investigator and an associate professor of nutritional sciences and medicine at U of T, who is also a clinician-scientist at Unity Health Toronto. "These results show that's not the case, and they should give pause to the designation of honey as a free or added sugar in dietary guidelines."
Sievenpiper and Khan emphasized that the context of the findings was critical: clinical trials in which participants followed healthy dietary patterns, with added sugars accounting for 10 per cent or less of daily caloric intake.
The researchers included 18 controlled trials and over 1,100 participants in their analysis. They assessed the quality of those trials using the GRADE system and found there was a low certainty of evidence for most of the studies, but that honey consistently produced either neutral or beneficial effects, depending on processing, floral source and quantity.
The median daily dose of honey in the trials was 40 grams, or about two tablespoons. The median length of trial was eight weeks. Raw honey drove many of the beneficial effects in the studies, as did honey from monofloral sources such as Robinia (also marketed as acacia honey) -- a honey from False Acacia or Black Locust Trees -- and clover, which is common in North America.
Khan said that while processed honey clearly loses many 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 likely would not destroy all its beneficial properties.