Natural honey

Natural honey that will crystallise or set within a few weeks.

Natural honey consumption by diabetics is complex and controversial. Too much of a good thing is not helpful.

Honey is made up of a mixture mainly of fructose and glucose, plus various vitamins, minerals, enzymes and a complex assortment of phytochemicals depending on which plants the bees have been feeding.

Researchers have found in the past that both glucose and fructose alone have unfavourable influences on diabetics causing weight gain and greater insulin resistance. Yet, natural honey has the exact opposite effect; a group taking large amounts over a period of 8 weeks lost on average 1.8 kg. Clearly some other component is at work.

The authors of a trial published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition of the effects of honey consumption on non-insulin dependent diabetics make no bones about the fact that there is natural and artificial honey. It is those micronutrients that make it so special; otherwise it is little better, if any, than sugar[1].

Artificial honey is concocted by adding glucose to fructose. Researchers have found that these sugars have unfavourable influences on both obesity and insulin resistance[2], despite the previous belief that the latter was considered a positive treatment for diabetic control.

Unnatural honey has been processed in some way. It may have been warmed too much which destroys the essential heat-labile compounds that make this food so venerated over thousands of years, an elixir of well-being. Perhaps the bees were force-fed on sugar, or sucrose was added directly to the product. 

Natural honey has small amounts of pollen and propolis which have anti-microbial properties. It is totally unprocessed after extraction from the combs, and lightly filtered to remove contaminants like bee parts and bits of wax.

Natural honey

The fructose in natural honey is absorbed more slowly in the small intestine than glucose; it is rapidly taken up by the liver causing blood sugar levels to rise ever so slightly. It is insulin independent which is why it was often used as a sweetener by diabetics.

What astonished the authors is that the natural honey group lost on average 1.8 kg over an 8 week period, despite consuming initially 10 tsp per day, increasing to 25;  the control members did not any weight.

The two groups were permitted to choose their food freely, but after analysis it was found that the caloric intake of the groups was much the same before and after the experiment; the honey eaters compensated, automatically reducing other components of their previous diet. 

Studies on the anti-oxidants in green tea by other scientists have shown that they help with weight loss. The authors speculated whether it was these other nutrients in natural honey that promote such significant weight loss. 

Half a teaspoon in this perfect butternut smoothie is a delight.

The scent of a million flowers

When you open a bottle of natural honey the first thing that will strike you - powerfully - is the scent of millions of flowers escaping from the bottle; it can be quite over-powering; then you know that this is the real McCoy. When it has been processed these gorgeous smells are driven off; one sniff and you will know the difference.

Fasting blood glucose

Consumption of natural honey had a lowering effect on fasting blood glucose, dropping it from 153 mg/dl to 124 but there was no change in the control group. After adjustment of the figures however the statisticians were unconvinced this was a meaningful drop.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics as Mark Twain once quipped.

Lipid parameters

All the lipid parameters in the natural honey group were quite dramatically improved. For example, total cholesterol was lowered from 214 to 177, and LDL dropped from 125 to 108.

The important LDL/HDL ratio and triglycerides also improved markedly.

Haemoglobin A1c

HbA1c gives a long term measure of how much glucose has combined with the haemoglobin in red blood cells. It is the one negative from consuming such large amounts of even natural honey.

In both the control and the honey groups HbA1c rose inexplicably, but by double the amount in the latter. From an initial reading of 7.1 (already high) it rose to 7.7.

Covid-19

52% of those who die from a Covid-19 are frank diabetics[3]. Since half of those with the disease in the world are generally reckoned to be walking the streets unaware of the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, it is not unreasonable to assume the percentage is actually considerably higher.

Add to those like myself who are prediabetic, yes I have a morbid interest in the subject, the numbers probably are approaching 75 percent. Can they eat natural honey? In moderate amounts up to perhaps five teaspoons per day will lower fasting blood glucose and improve lipid profiles. More than that would contribute to a raised A1c.

Can they consume eat processed honey? Definitely not, nor should they have sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners, not least because of the detrimental effect on the microbiome in the intestine.


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Tony Jackman's column

Tony Jackman writes a wonderful column in the Daily Maverick. This week he has a lovely piece on honey from the Karoo.

Honey, elixir of the veld.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. How to start beekeeping
  3. Natural honey
  1. Effects of natural honey consumption in diabetic patients
  2. Fructose, Insulin Resistance, and Metabolic Dyslipidemia
  3. Diabetes the leading risk factor for Covid-19 deaths

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