How healthy is honey really?

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For many, honey is considered a healthy sweetener and is often even touted as a home remedy for coughs and minor wounds. But how healthy is honey? How does it affect the body, and who shouldn’t eat honey?

Not all honey is the same
People have been using honey as a food for centuries, and the sweet bee product has also always been of great importance in medicine. Due to its antimicrobial properties, honey was primarily used as a wound dressing.

However, it is clear that honey from different flowering plants differs considerably in its composition and, therefore, in its ability to kill bacteria. Honeys from the supermarket are edible honey and are only suitable for food. In addition, special types of honey can be used for medicinal purposes. Manuka honey, for example. Manuka honey is produced by a bee native to New Zealand and Australia and is a registered wound care product there.

What ingredients are in edible honey?
To find out how healthy edible honey is, it is important to look at the ingredients: The main component of honey is sugar; it makes up around 80 percent of the bee product. The sugar in honey consists mainly of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, as well as small amounts of disaccharides and polysaccharides. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are types of sugar that can be metabolized quickly. This means that the body can process these sugars quickly, and satiety does not last long. On the other hand, polysaccharides are digested more slowly, as they first have to be broken down into their individual sugar molecules. They, therefore, provide the body with energy for longer. The exact composition of the sugars varies depending on the type of honey.

Besides sugar, honey consists of around 17 percent water, while enzymes and other proteins, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, colorants and flavorings make up around three percent.

Is honey healthier than sugar?
Edible honey is primarily a calorie-rich source of energy. Therefore, like all foods with a high sugar content, honey can increase the risk of obesity, tooth decay, and diabetes mellitus if consumed in excess. The small amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals are insufficient to meet daily requirements.

Honey instead of sugar: yes or no?
Even if, at first glance, honey offers no health benefits compared to household sugar, it can still be an advisable alternative.
Due to its higher fructose content, honey tastes sweeter than conventional sugar, so a smaller amount is automatically used when sweetening.

Who should not eat honey?
Children in their first year of life, babies, and people with a weakened immune system should not eat natural honey. This is because of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, whose spores bees can carry into the honey. This bacterium can colonise the intestines and produce botulinum toxin in people whose intestinal flora is not yet fully developed or unstable.

Some people also react to fructose-containing foods like honey with diarrhea or flatulence. This may be due to a functional intestinal disorder known as fructose malabsorption (intestinal fructose intolerance). In this case, it is not necessary to completely avoid fructose. Instead, those affected can undergo a so-called three-stage nutritional therapy with the help of a dietician, consisting of an omission phase, a test phase, and a permanent diet. This involves removing foods containing fructose from the diet and gradually adding them back. This allows those affected to recognize whether honey, for example, is well tolerated. In the case of fructose intolerance, however, honey should be avoided altogether. This is particularly true for people who suffer from hereditary fructose intolerance, or HFI, for short. This is a congenital, hereditary fructose intolerance in which the body cannot break down ingested fructose properly. In the worst case, this can be life-threatening.

Is honey as healthy as medicine?
Honey is considered an old household remedy. It is often given to children, in particular, to soothe coughs. There is increasing evidence that honey can reduce the secretion of phlegm and acute coughs in children. For optimum effect, scientists recommend a single dose of 2.5 milliliters for children aged one year and over to be taken before bedtime. Manuka honey, in particular, has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. This is due to its high content of methylglyoxal – a breakdown product of the sugar it contains.

Secondary plant substances, such as the flavonoids and phenolic acids in honey, also protect the respiratory tract. Bitter honey contains more of these substances. Secondary plant substances are found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, pulses, and wholegrain products. They give plants their color, protect them from attacks by predators, and regulate their growth.

Honey is not suitable for treating wounds, regardless of whether it comes from the supermarket shelf or the beekeeper. Honey is a natural product – and natural products can contain harmful germs. This also applies to manuka honey but not to so-called medicinal honey.

Honey against metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of diseases, including obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and the lipid metabolism disorder dyslipidemia. Numerous pre-clinical and human studies now indicate that honey protects against metabolic syndrome – both preventively and as a complementary therapeutic agent. In this case, honey is healthy when consumed in small quantities because, among other things, it lowers blood sugar levels, prevents excessive weight gain, improves fat metabolism, and reduces the risk of chronic vascular inflammation. In addition, the oxidative properties of honey are said to stabilize the metabolic state. However, caution is advised. The German Nutrition Society (DGE), the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the German Diabetes Society (DDG) advise that a maximum of ten percent of the total energy intake should come from free sugars. 2,000 kilocalories a day corresponds to around 50 grams of sugar. With a honey roll, the daily sugar requirement is almost covered with breakfast.

Is honey healthy for the heart?
Cardiovascular diseases are among the most widespread diseases worldwide. The most common of these is a heart attack, which is caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart. This can lead to further complications, such as cardiac arrhythmia or permanent areas of infarction. Honey can protect the heart by improving lipid metabolism and blood pressure, having an antioxidant effect, reducing the infarct area, and attenuating cell death (cell apoptosis). -Various pre-clinical studies indicate this. However, whether honey can have a supportive effect in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases requires further research.

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