Monday, March 8, 2010


Honey is the product made by insects belonging to the Bee species, most important one being Honey Bee that provides edible products considered safe for human consumption. Though chemically it is a blend of fructose (38.5%) and glucose (35%), Honey is a product made by repeated regurgitation of the nectar collected by the insect and evaporated by continuous fanning with their wings within the Beehive. Depending on the area and the type of flowers foraged by the Bee, the fragrance and taste can vary considerably. There can even be honey intoxication if honey is made by the bee from nectar collected from some flowers and sufficient information is available regarding such honey products to be avoided for human consumption.

It is common for many people to believe in the extraordinary powers of different foods based on folklore, published reports and some time due to limited experience, honey has been claimed to have many health promoting properties. It is true that under the traditional medicinal system in India, Honey is used extensively in many preparations but such use is based on faith, beliefs and past experience. Traditionally in India honey is used as a tropical application for treating many ailments. The proven antiseptic and antibiotic properties of honey have been attributed to the low water activity of 0.6, low pH of 3.2 to 4.5, generation of hydrogen peroxide due o Glucose Oxidase activity in unheated honey and traces of methy glyoxal present.

Whether there is adequate scientific proof to support such claims is doubtful. But 2700 years of history that highlights its use has been quoted to support some of the claims. Honey cannot be claimed to be absolutely safe because of detected presence of Clostridium botulinum spores which can cause death to children when the spores regenerate into active cells in their tender stomach releasing the toxin responsible for botulism poisoning. As the spores are highly heat resistant only irradiation can destroy this pathogen in the product. Honey can also cause "pollen allergy" to some and such sensitive consumers will have to take sufficient precaution while taking honey. How ever modern processed honey products go through filtration ,clarification and pasteurization making them relatively safe for adults.

According to a recent report there is scientific basis to sustain many of the health claims attributed to this natural product. The relationship between the energy or fuel status of the liver and the quality and duration of restorative sleep is one of the most neglected areas of study in human physiology and whatever little is known, indicates that "chronic nocturnal metabolic stress can be easily prevented by simply providing adequate fuel for the liver and the brain during the nocturnal fast". It is claimed that after the evening meal, the liver can be be selectively replenished by consuming an ounce or two of quality honey. Also honey prior to sleep can"activate the honey/insulin/melatonin cycle, promote quality sleep and recovery physiology and reduce the production and release of the adrenal (stress) hormones". Here again supportive data from credible scientific studies are far and few.

Honey can have different composition from source to source and its therapeutic value, if any can also vary significantly. Flowers from where honey is sourced by the bee can vary in quality and same will be reflected when it reaches the consumer. There are instances where honey causes serious allergy to some, calling for caution in blindly accepting it for consumption. Some puritans also feel refining of honey after its extraction from the beehive can destroy some of its health promoting value whereas unrefined honey may be suspect from safety angle. Diabetic population must be careful in consuming honey regularly and in general consumer discretion is recommended when honey is promoted through branding and high decibel advertisements.


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