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Honey: Potential Benefits and Risks – Tufts

Humans have been using honey as a sweetener for over 5,000 years. Throughout history, many cultures have also used it as a natural remedy—to treat wounds, ease coughs, and more. While there are many studies looking into a variety of medicinal uses for honey, few offer any sign of efficacy in humans, and honey is not included in any authoritative evidence-based treatment guidelines. A closer look at honey and its components can help us understand why.

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Honey Basics: “To make honey, foraging honeybees collect nectar from flowers and bring it back to the hive, where it gets ‘spit out’ into a cell of the honeycomb,” says Rachael E. Bonoan, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher for Tufts University and Washington State University. “Once there is enough nectar in the wax cell, the bees dehydrate it by fanning their wings.”

Honey that comes straight from the honeycomb or is only filtered to remove debris is called “raw” honey. Most honey sold in stores is minimally processed for safety and quality purposes: After filtering it is pasteurized (exposed to high heat) to kill bacteria and yeast cells. Pasteurization also extends the time honey remains liquid before it crystalizes.

Though the exact chemical composition of honey varies depending on the location and type of flowers from which the bees gather the nectar, honey contains a diversity of nutrients, including sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and numerous polyphenols—antioxidant plant compounds. Unfortunately, honey—raw or pasteurized—does not have enough nutrients or other bioactive compounds to make a significant difference in health. “In order to get nutritionally-relevant amounts of these compounds, one would have to eat so much honey that the negative health effects from the sugars would far surpass any potential health benefits from the other nutrients,” says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, a professor at the Friedman School and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.

Sweet Risks: Honey is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an added sugar. There is strong evidence that intake of added sugars is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, and it may increase risk for high blood pressure and stroke. The average American adult’s added sugar intake is 77 grams per day, far more than the 36 grams (nine teaspoons) for men and 25 grams (six teaspoons) for women recommended by the American Heart Association. “Cutting back on all added sugars is an important change to make for overall health,” says Lichtenstein.

Honey may contain spores that cause botulism, a serious paralytic illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves. Although adults don’t typically contract botulism from ingesting spores, infants can. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deem all honey, both raw and pasteurized, unsafe for infants under a year old.

Minimal Reward: Honey has been studied for antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, and for its potential role in treatment of diseases from diabetes to cancer. Unfortunately, few of these studies involved humans, and none prove effectiveness. “As with any sweetener dissolved in water, honey may be of some benefit in soothing a cough,” says Lichtenstein. Honey has also been looked at as a topical treatment for wounds and skin conditions, but it is not recommended for that use at this time. Honey does appear to have antioxidant properties, but fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods provide antioxidants as well.

Eating local raw honey has been touted as a way to help ease seasonal allergy symptoms. There is no research to confirm that eating honey will improve allergy symptoms. In fact, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the pollen in raw honey could cause a negative reaction in people suffering from severe pollen allergies.

Although honey has more nutrients than most other sweeteners, the vast majority of claims for its healthfulness are unvalidated or overstated. Enjoy this natural sweetener in limited amounts for the pure joy of its rich, sweet taste—but do not count on it to boost your health.

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People who have trouble sleeping are at a higher risk of dying – especially people with diabetes

People in the UK with sleep problems are at an increased risk of dying, finds a new study from the University of Surrey and Northwestern University. 

In a paper published by the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers reveal how they examined data* from half a million middle-aged UK participants asked if they had trouble falling asleep at night or woke up in the middle of the night.  

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The report found that people with frequent sleep problems are at a higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems. This grave outcome was more pronounced for people with Type-2 diabetes: during the nine years of the research, the study found that they were 87 per cent more likely to die of any cause than people without diabetes or sleep disturbances.   

The study also found that people with diabetes and sleep problems were 12 per cent more likely to die over this period than those who had diabetes but not frequent sleep disturbances. 

Malcolm von Schantz, the first author of the study and Professor of Chronobiology from the University of Surrey, said: 

“Although we already knew that there is a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem starkly.” 

“The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea. Still, from a practical point of view it doesn’t matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk.” 

Professor Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University, the senior co-author of the study, said: 

“Diabetes alone was associated with a 67 per cent increased risk of mortality. However, the mortality for participants with diabetes combined with frequent sleep problems was increased to 87 per cent. In order words, it is particularly important for doctors treating people with diabetes to also investigate sleep disorders and consider treatments where appropriate.” 

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High Soda Intake May Boost Diabetes Risk, Even Without Obesity

This new study removed weight as a factor, and still found that every daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages increases any person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 13 percent over 10 years.

Check out the following posts for more:

Possible Side Effect of Soda
Soda Sabotages Your Diet
Some Insights on Sugary Soda Drinking
Health Advocates Remake Famous Coke Ad.

I have a Page on – What’s wrong with soft drinks? with words and pictures.


Cooking with Kathy Man

Daily sugary drink tied to 13 percent increased risk over a decade, study finds.

Whether you are slim or obese, if you drink lots of sugary soda or other sweetened drinks you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a new analysis reveals.

Until now, health experts have thought that sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes were linked because sugar promotes weight gain, and body fat contributes to insulin resistance, which precedes diabetes.

But this new study removed weight as a factor, and still found that every daily serving of sugar-sweetened beverages increases any person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 13 percent over 10 years.

If this is correct, sugary drinks could lead to 2 million new cases of type 2 diabetes in the United States between 2010 and 2020, the researchers reported in the July 22 online edition of the BMJ.

Type 2 diabetes disrupts the way…

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