Honey has been used since ancient times as a sweetener, a source of nutrition and a symbol of religious significance. It is a natural product and contains many advantages over other types of sweeteners. However, there are some risks of honey consumption that may be of concern to some people.
Honey is a natural substance produced by bees from the nectar of flowers; it gets its sweet taste from glucose and fructose. There are variations in taste and nutritional profile depending on the source of the nectar. Honey is acidic and contains a low concentration of water, making it difficult for most bacteria to grow in it, although some types may flourish, according to an article in the September 2007 issue of "African Health Sciences." Although honey is mostly sugar, the article notes that it has other beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, iron, minerals and small amounts of the B vitamins.
Honey contains potent antioxidants such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. according to an article in the October 2002 issue of the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." The article also notes the presence of the enzyme catalase, which converts harmful hydrogen peroxide molecules into water and oxygen. In addition, honey contains antimicrobial properties, according to the article in "African Health Sciences," which may explain its use as a folk remedy for the topical treatment of wounds to prevent infection. Other health benefits attributed to honey include fighting cancer and building immunity, but there is not scientific data to support these claims.
Children under the age of 1 should never consume honey due to the possible presence of endospores that may cause botulism, according to the August 1996 issue of the "International Journal of Food Microbiology." This risk of botulism is quite small in adults, however. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration reports that honey from bees that collected nectar from rhododendrons contains a toxin that induces dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting. Toxic honey may be produced by bees in other parts of the world that collect honey from certain flowers, but the risk in most of the world is slight.
If you are concerned about potential risks of honey, you may want to avoid raw or unfiltered honey, which contains more spores and possible allergens. It is also best to avoid honey that has crystallized, since this can encourage the honey to grow yeast or bacteria. Honey has a long shelf life, but it is safer to consume honey that is fresher to avoid any potential contamination. In general, the benefits of honey outweigh the risks and make it a preferable sweetener to sugar in many instances due to its superior nutritional profile.
- "African Health Sciences"; Honey: A Reservoir for Microorganisms and an Inhibitory Agent for Microbes; PB Olaitan et al; September 2007
- "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry"; Identification and Quantification of Antioxidant Compounds of Honeys from Various Floral Sources; N Gheldof et al; October 2002.
- "International Journal of Food Microbiology"; Microorganisms in Honey; JA Snowdon and DO Cliver; August 1996
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.