Exhibits Antioxidant Properties
(HealthScoutNews) -- If you have a sweet tooth but shrink at
the empty calories in processed sugar, Nicki Engeseth has a suggestion:
It's not only sweet, but "nutritionally quite promising,"
says Engeseth, an assistant professor of food chemistry at the
University of Illinois.
Her research indicates that honey seems to offer many of the
benefits of the fresh fruits and vegetables that nutritionists
recommend for a daily diet.
"Honey has been used medically for hundreds of years for
various reasons, but no one put any really strong science behind
it," Engeseth says. "Honey is often regarded as just
a sweetener, but that's not true. There is a lot of work to show
that there is more value to it than has been thought."
A fair amount of that work has been done by Engeseth, who is
to present some of her findings today at the annual meeting of
the American Chemical Society in Boston. She'll discuss her latest
study, in which she looked at the effect of honey intake on blood
levels of antioxidants, which are thought to provide some protection
against heart disease.
She had 25 healthy young men come to her laboratory and consume
measured amounts of five drinks, starting with water, and including
water and buckwheat honey, tea and honey, tea alone, and tea with
the kind of sugar most people put in it.
"We found a slight protective effect of honey," Engeseth
says. "Meaning that we were able to detect an increased antioxidant
function in the blood of honey and water over water alone. The
other beverages were not found to have a significant effect. The
levels with tea plus honey were higher, but did not reach statistical
It was, she acknowledges, a "really short-term" experiment,
and "we were hoping to see more dramatic results, but the
amount of honey consumed might not have been enough to produce
Now she is doing an animal experiment to see whether honey can
help prevent atherosclerosis, the gradual blocking of arteries
that leads to heart attack and stroke. Rabbits, like people, develop
atherosclerosis when fed a high-cholesterol diet, so they are
being given that diet along with dollops of honey. The study,
scheduled to run 12 weeks, will be completed about a month from
now, Engeseth says.
Engeseth's work is funded by the National Honey Board, a Colorado-based
industry group. Hers is one of about 10 projects the board is
funding to establish the benefits of consuming honey, says Marcia
Cardeti, director of scientific affairs for the group.
"Almost every day we hear about the antioxidant properties
of almost any fruit and vegetable," Cardeti says. "Honey
comes from floral sources -- plants -- so it makes sense that
it would have antioxidant properties."
The antioxidants found in honey seem to have the same properties
as those in fruits and vegetables, Cardeti says, but the amount
depends on the source. There's a general rule -- the darker the
honey, the higher the antioxidant content, she says.
That principle was established in work done at the University
of Illinois, but not by Engeseth. Insect experts there showed
that antioxidant content was related to honey. However, when they
applied for money to continue the research, "the honey board
wouldn't fund them because they were entomologists," Engeseth
says. "So they came to me, and that's how I got into it."
She started with studies of the chemical characteristics of
various honeys. "The antioxidant content on a weight basis
was similar to that of certain fruits and vegetables, so that
spurred us to see what the effects would be on humans," she
What To Do
For more on the possible health benefits of honey, visit the
National Honey Board. To read the report, you'll need Adobe's
Acrobat Reader, which you can download by
clicking here. To learn about honey's healing properties,
Reference Source 101