Scientists examine health in honey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Honey Nutrition Sugar

The health benefits of honey are the focus of discussions taking
place today at an international symposium bringing together
scientists to examine the potential of the natural sweetener.

Taking place in Sacramento, California, the event is designed to review new science and traditional medicine that supports the role of honey in human health.

While honey has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds and ailments, scientists have only recently begun to explain the precise effects of the natural sweetener's antiseptic and antibacterial qualities on human health.

According to the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Human Health, the non-profit group that has organized the symposium, some of the benefits to be discussed include honey's potential to improve chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, wound healing, restorative sleep, cough suppression and cognitive function.

"It seems that the role of honey as a functional food useful for the management and treatment of many human conditions is just beginning to gain momentum in the US," according to Dr Ron Fessenden, co-chairman of the committee.

"It has been the goal of the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Health to highlight some of this exciting research.

We trust that this symposium will stimulate further research that may advance the role for honey in health, from weight management to risk reduction for neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer 's disease and Parkinsonism."

Today's presentations include the US Department of Agriculture's David Baer, who will discuss experimental evidence suggesting that honey consumption compared to some other sweeteners may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.

In a related presentation, Dr GBKS Prasad, from the Department of Biochemistry, Jiwaji University in India, will share findings from a recent trial that revealed that honey may not produce the elevations in blood sugar seen with glucose in people who suffer from mild diabetes - or a difficulty in metabolizing glucose.

Nicola Starkey from Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealond will present findings from an animal study that suggest the use of honey instead of sugar as a sweetener can result in less weight gain.

"Given the rise of the functional food category for an increasingly health conscious population, food companies may want to take note and experiment more with using honey as the sweetener of choice for food products," she will say.

In addition to the research to be presented at the symposium, attendees will also discuss future directions for further research into the benefits of honey.

These include the prevention of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, and improved cognitive function for mental performance and memory.

Other recent scientific reports linking honey to health include research suggesting that taking honey in combination with calcium supplements could help boost bone strength.

Furthermore, Spanish scientists have found that bees that feed on honeydew produce honey with double the amount of antioxidants.

Research such as this has helped boost honey consumption around the world, with sales increasing 14 per cent between 2004 and 2006, according to market analysts Mintel.

In international terms China is currently by far the largest honey-producing nation in the world, with around a 40 per cent slice of the market, while the next biggest producers are the US, Argentina and Ukraine.

According to the American Honey Producers Association, China and Argentina have been adversely affecting America's domestic honey industry with cheap imports, although there is a counter argument that both China and Argentina have been helping to counterbalance falling production in the US.

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