How This Helps

Honey has been used since early times as both a sweetener and medication. It's a viscous liquid made by honeybees and ranges in color from straw yellow to dark brown. The bees gather nectar from flowers and combine it with enzymes to form honey prior to keeping it in honeycomb cells to keep it fresh. Diabetics get a great deal of information about what you should and shouldn't eat. Perhaps you’ve been told to have honey rather than sugar. What does the science and research say?

How is honey different from sugar?

Honey contains less sugar and fructose when compared to sugar, but contains more calories. The proportions of glucose and fructose in honey and sugar are somewhat different. Whereas sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, honey includes 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose - the remainder includes water, pollen, minerals, such as magnesium and potassium. These additional components could very well be keys to the health benefits of honey.

Honey and sugar are both carbohydrates, comprising both types of sugar: sugar and fructose. Refined fructose, which can be found in sweeteners, is metabolized by the liver and has been associated with obesity, fatty liver disease, & diabetes. Both fructose and glucose are broken down quickly by the body and can cause spikes in glucose levels.

Most commercial honeys have a moderate Glycemic Index or GI of 45 to 64 which is lower than sugar at 65. The GI depends on the amount of fructose – the greater the fructose, the lower the GI. Table sugar, or granulated sugar, is what most people think of sugar. Chemically, table sugar is sucrose, a disaccharide that is a 50-50 mixture of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. It has a GI of 65. (Other variations of sugars have GI from 19 in Fructose to 105 in Maltose).

Sugar being higher on the glycemic index (GI) than honey means it increases blood glucose levels more quickly. This implies that honey may cause a shorter spike in blood glucose levels when compared with sugar.

 

Does honey raise blood glucose levels?

What do the research studies say?

Some studies have found that eating honey may boost insulin levels and reduce levels of blood glucose. Yet, there is not enough data yet to support extensive use of honey. 

A research on people with type 2 diabetes found that when compared to sugar, honey doesn't raise glucose levels just as much but does result in a greater increase in insulin levels. This indicates that honey can trigger the secretion of insulin which helps in keeping the blood sugar levels in check.

See: Functional medicine for Type 2 diabetes

A review of research in which honey has been given in conjunction with anti-diabetic medicines indicates that honey aids in better control of blood glucose and reduces harmful effects on the body's cells. This sort of damage, known as oxidative stress, is thought of as the most probable cause of type 2 diabetes and its complications, according to current research.

It follows that any foods such as honey, which have an antioxidant effect, may be helpful for individuals with diabetes. This is a significant area where honey scores over table sugar in the diet for individuals with diabetes.

 However, most experiments with honey with individuals with type 2 diabetes are flawed, which makes their results unreliable.

1. In one such experiment of 48 diabetics, honey has been given for 2 weeks to a group but not to another. The results demonstrated that while the body fat and total cholesterol dropped in the honey group, there was a substantial increase in their HbA1c levels. The authors of the study, therefore, recommended that honey should be used with caution.

 See: Ayurveda for Diabetes Type 2

If you're a type 2 diabetic with blood glucose levels in the normal selection, honey might be a healthy substitute for sugar in your diet. Although honey is significantly sweeter than table sugar, it does have a low glycemic index; hence a carefully monitored ingestion of honey will probably be more beneficial than glucose ingestion. But if your blood glucose is over the standard selection, tends to fluctuate, or if you have diabetic complications, honey may do more harm than good. If that's the event, it would be best to refrain from taking honey altogether.

 See: Sweet Potato & Diabetes

 

2. A study from 2004 researched honey and sugar's effects on blood sugar levels. The researcher found a solution containing 75 g of honey raised blood glucose and insulin levels in people with and without type 2 diabetes within thirty minutes. An equivalent solution containing dextrose increased blood glucose levels slightly higher. Within 2 hours, the levels dropped, and they dropped lower and remained lower in the honey group, compared with the dextrose group.

The researcher suggested that honey may boost insulin levels. This would explain why, though blood glucose levels rose in both groups, they dropped further in the honey group.

 See: Is green tea good for you?

3. A review printed in 2017 also researched the connection between honey and blood sugar in people with diabetes. The authors discovered that honey decreased fasting serum glucose reading taken after a person has fasted for at least 8 hours. It increased levels of fasting C-peptide, which enables the pancreas to know how much insulin to secrete and plays an essential role in maintaining blood sugar levels stable in a healthy variety. It climbed 2-hour postprandial C-peptide levels, which indicate the quantity of peptide after someone eats.


4. An 8-week research between 48 people in Iran discovered that consuming honey did not seem to raise fasting glucose levels. Participants who ate honey also lost weight and had lower blood glucose levels. The researchers also analyzed the participants' hemoglobin. The researchers noted that participants at the honey group had An increase in hemoglobin A1c, suggesting a long-term increase in blood sugar levels. Because of this, the group recommended caution for diabetics to have honey in their diet.

 

5. Other studies have indicated that honey may have added benefits because it comprises antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. A review printed in 2017 looked in the potential functions of honey in recovery. The authors noted that, in people with type 2 diabetes, physicians may one day use honey to reduce glucose levels, decrease the risk of complications associated with metabolic and cardiovascular disease, and help heal wounds.

Another research in 2014 noted that honey may help to fight the inflammatory processes that occur with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are features of metabolic syndrome.

Is honey good for diabetics?

According to Mayo Clinic, there is no real benefit to substituting honey for sugar in a diabetes eating strategy. Both sugar and honey will affect your blood glucose level. Honey is sweeter than granulated sugar, so you may use a smaller quantity of honey for sugar in some recipes. But honey really has slightly more carbs and calories per teaspoon than does granulated sugar so any calories and carbs you save will be minimal. If you prefer the flavor of honey, go on and use it but only in moderation. Be sure to count the carbohydrates in honey as part of your diabetes eating plan.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Recommend that carbohydrates constitute 45-65 percent of a person's recommended daily caloric intake. Diabetics must work with their health care team to figure out the ideal amount for them. Once a person knows just how many carbs they should be eating each day, they could adjust food choices and portion sizes so.

It's also important to note that the type, along with the amount, of carbohydrates influences blood glucose levels. Healthcare professionals will help determine each person's carbohydrate requirements.

Fiber intake is crucial in handling post-meal blood glucose spikes. Each meal should contain loads of fiber. Most of an individual's carbohydrate intake should include healthful, unprocessed, high-fiber carbohydrates. All these are in whole grains, such as barley, as well as in whole meal bread, legumes, peas, whole oats, and whole fruits and vegetables.

 

 

Summary

Honey may have many health benefits, be it folklore, or based on advanced scientific research. Despite the fact that there's promising research using honey vs sugar, results are conflicting. It is safer to reduce additional honey and sugar in your diet, eat low sugar fruits and go low-carb. Stick with diets that include whole, unprocessed, high-fiber carbohydrates in fruits & veggies.

 

References

1. S. Bogdanov, T. Jurendic, R. Sieber, P. Gallmann. Honey for nutrition and health: a review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Dec; 27(6):677-89. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19155427

2. Glycemic Index: Self-Nutrition Data. Available online at http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/glycemic-index

3. Noori S. Al-Waili. Natural Honey Lowers Plasma Glucose, C-Reactive Protein, Homocysteine, and Blood Lipids in Healthy, Diabetic, and Hyperlipidemic Subjects: Comparison with Dextrose and Sucrose.  Journal of Medicinal Food. July 2004, 7(1): 100-107.   https://doi.org/10.1089/109662004322984789

4. O.O. Erejuwa. Effect of honey in diabetes mellitus: matters arising. Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders. 2014; 13:23 https://doi.org/10.1186/2251-6581-13-23   https://jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-13-23

5. Basic report: 19296, honey. (2018). ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19296 fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=honey&ds=SR&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

6. Basic report: 19335, sugars, granulated. (2018). ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19335?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=sugar&ds=SR&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

7. Bobiş, O., et al. (2018). Honey and diabetes: The importance of natural simple sugars in diet for preventing and treating different types of diabetes.  

hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2018/4757893/

8. Carbohydrate counting. (2017).  diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/carbohydrate-counting.html

9. Carbohydrate counting & diabetes. (2014).  niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity/carbohydrate-counting

10. E. Wright, J.L. Scism-Bacon, L.C. Glass. Oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes: the role of fasting and postprandial glycaemia. Int J Clin Pract. 2006 Mar; 60(3): 308–314. doi:  10.1111/j.1368-5031.2006.00825.x  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448694/

11. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids. (2005).  nal.usda.gov/sites/default/files/fnic_uploads/energy_full_report.pdf

12. Erejuwa, O. O. (2014). Effect of honey in diabetes mellitus: Matters arising. 

jdmdonline.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2251-6581-13-23

13. M. Bahrami, A. Ataie-Jafari, S. Hosseini, M.H. Foruzanfar, M. Rahmani, M. Pajouhi. Effects of natural honey consumption in diabetic patients: An 8-week randomized clinical trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Nov; 60(7):618-26. doi: 10.3109/09637480801990389.

14. Meo, S. A., et al. (2017). Honey and diabetes mellitus: Obstacles and challenges — road to be repaired. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X16302066

15. The Glycemic Index Foundation, https://www.gisymbol.com/gi-sugar/

16. ATAYOĞLU, Ali & Soylu, Meltem & Silici, Sibel & İnanç, Neriman. (2016). Glycemic index values of monofloral Turkish honeys and the effect oftheir consumption on glucose metabolism*. TURKISH JOURNAL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES. 46. 483-488. 10.3906/sag-1502-102. 

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