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In a cooperative effort between researchers at the medical sciences departments of Iran’s Isfahan University and Mashhad University, honey has been shown to aid the body in healthy processing of fats by decreasing the overall amount of cholesterol and fats in the bloodstream.[i] The study was published in August 2018 in the journal of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN), Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.
Researchers were inspired by previous studies that demonstrated honey’s beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease symptoms. Their chief aim was to investigate whether the effect of honey consumption on overall lipids in the blood was markedly different than the effects of sucrose, or table sugar, on the blood lipid profiles of 60 young, healthy male subjects.
Good Fats Are Key to Heart Health
A lipid profile, also called a coronary risk panel, is a blood test that measures total blood triglycerides including high-density lipoproteins (HDL), often referred to as “good cholesterol,” and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), commonly known as “bad cholesterol.” In truth, there is only one “type” of cholesterol, a molecule that is incapable of dissolving in blood. In order to transport cholesterol to the various cells throughout the body, lipoproteins such as LDLs and HDLs act as cholesterol carriers.
LDLs may have earned their bad reputation due to the fact that, once they have deposited their cholesterol load, they become small enough to burrow into the linings of arteries where they can oxidize, resulting in damaging inflammation. Conversely, one of HDLs functions is to carry anti-oxidative enzymes to cells where they may help neutralize potential harm done by depleted LDLs’ oxidation.
The blood lipid profile is a primary screening tool for assessing an individual’s risk of developing coronary heart disease. The word “lipids” refers to fats and fat-like substances that are key regulators of cellular activity, such as the energetic functions of your body.[ii]
The effectiveness of this cellular transport system is dependent on having the right amount of healthy fats in your bloodstream. If an imbalance occurs, excess cholesterol may get deposited into the walls of blood vessels, eventually leading to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, that can cause heart attack and stroke due to blocked blood flow to the heart and brain.[iii]
In the focus study, 60 male subjects between the ages of 18 and 30 were randomly recruited and assigned into one of two groups: honey (experimental) and sucrose (control). Participants were included in the study if they were healthy, non-athletic and a non-smoker. Participants were excluded if they already consumed a large amount of honey in their daily life, took any sort of medication or had recently undergone major diet and lifestyle changes.
Body mass index (BMI) was measured and participants’ physical activity was self-reported via the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), a survey that assesses walking time, moderate and vigorous physical activities and time spent sitting throughout a typical week.
The experimental group received 70 grams of natural honey per day, while the control group received 70 grams of sucrose per day for a period of six weeks. Fasting lipid profile, including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL and triacylglycerol, was determined for each subject at the beginning of the trial (baseline) via a 5-milliliter blood sample, which was collected in the morning after a 12-hour fasting period.
The lab tests were repeated after the six-week intervention period was complete. All 60 participants successfully completed the trial, and in the final analysis confounding variables including age, physical activity and some nutrient intake were adjusted.
Honey Improves Cholesterol While Table Sugar Is Toxic
Participants’ baseline measurements for fasting blood sugar, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were not different between the honey and sucrose groups, indicating that there were no significant pre-existing differences between the groups at the beginning of the study. After the final blood lipid profiles were produced, researchers compiled the following findings:
- Consumption of honey decreased total cholesterol and LDL and increased the presence of HDL in the blood.
- Consumption of sucrose had the inverse effect, increasing total cholesterol and significantly raising LDL levels, while decreasing HDL in the blood.
In summary, total cholesterol significantly decreased in the honey group compared with the beginning of the trial, while total cholesterol increased in sucrose group. LDL cholesterol was decreased by honey consumption and increased by sugar intake. Honey also increased HDL cholesterol in the blood, while sucrose decreased the presence of this healthy fat.
The main finding of this study, noted researchers, was “the ability of natural honey to modulate some of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. with one person dying from cardiovascular disease every 37 seconds.[iv] Researchers called for further clinical trials to confirm their promising results.
Honey: Nature’s Oldest Health Food
Honey has an unprecedented history of use as a food and medicament, stemming back as far as recorded history. It has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, still perfectly preserved, and in cave art dating back some 8,000 years.[v] Honey contains many active biological constituents including polyphenols, nutritionally dense phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties.[vi]
Many studies have confirmed that polyphenols provide a protective effect against diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arterial diseases and more.[vii] There are over 200 abstracts on GreenMedInfo.com extolling the numerous health benefits of consuming pure, raw honey. Become a member today to access our in-depth research tools and learn more about how honey is one of nature’s most miraculous foods.
[i] The effect of honey consumption compared with sucrose on lipid profile in young healthy subjects (randomized clinical trial). Rasad H, Entezari MH, Ghadiri E, Mahaki B, Pahlavani N. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2018 Aug;26:8-12. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.04.016. PMID: 29908688
[v] Heathmont Honey, Bees, Honey history, https://www.heathmonthoney.com.au/bees/HoneyHistory.htm