Honey has long been explored as an alternative to regular sugar in our diets. In fact, some nutritionists even prioritize honey over other types of sugars because it’s not broken down as quickly as other types of sugars, making it a better sugar to consume than others. However, researchers and nutrition experts have long held the view that sugar is sugar; no matter what form it takes, sugar can have an adverse effect on the body, especially when its not eaten in moderation. The most obvious adverse effects are rises in blood sugar levels, which can lead to conditions like diabetes.
A team or researchers have recently conducted a study reviewing available clinical data that call into question the idea that honey is sugar, and that sugar is sugar, no matter what. Their findings are published in a recent paper in Nutrition Reviews.
According to the study, researchers found that honey, particularly raw honey derived from one source, can have a number of metabolic and cardiovascular health benefits. For example, researchers found that honey could:
But if sugar is sugar, then how does honey offer these vital health benefits? Researchers point to the complex makeup of honey, which includes both sugars and a range of other important health compounds, such as proteins. There has also been prior research done in animals, for example, suggesting potential cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits to honey. The study also provides detailed insight into how the processing of honey and the floral source of honey impacts the health benefits of honey.
The review included 18 randomized-controlled clinical trials. The team found that processing honey through pasteurization processes causes honey to lose many of its health benefits, highlighting that raw, unheated honey may allow for maximal cardiovascular and metabolic health benefits.
The studies researchers reviewed, they emphasize, included participants who were already following healthy diets, including minimal amounts of added sugar like honey. The team highlights that their findings reinforce the benefits of switching other sugars for honey, rather than adding honey to a diet if you are currently avoiding sugar.