In 2016 the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) conducted a report called ‘Value-adding to Honey’ by Dr Joan Dawes and Dr David Dall. This report aimed to provide an in depth analysis of three potential functional properties of Australian eucalypt honeys: Glycaemic Index, prebiotic properties and therapeutic activity. Tests were conducted on the composition of twenty samples of Australian eucalypt honeys, to identify whether the honey samples do in fact exhibit health-related properties, and attempts to relate honey composition to its health benefits.
The in vitro studies showed that all of the Jarrah honey samples elevated the levels of butyric acid, which at high concentrations is linked to a lowered risk of colon cancer. While further research needs to be conducted, this correlation is a huge potential area of benefit for the general population and for the benefits of ingesting Jarrah honey.
Research led by the University of Technology Sydney and funded by AgriFutures Honey Bee & Pollination Program aims to provide evidence required by modern medicine to expand honey’s role as a staple in the pantry to a health food. The work seeks to use honey as a prebiotic to promote good digestive health and to help combat the onset and progression of gut related disease.
For some context to the above research, the gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, archaea, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Prebiotics are foods that we do not digest by ourselves, instead they reach our gut where they can be used as a food source by billions of beneficial bacteria, helping maintain a healthy microbiome.
Dr Nural Cokcetin, Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney is leading this exploration of linking honey to a healthy gut and said their research shows just a small amount of honey can affect not only the balance of the types of bacteria living in our gut, but can also be beneficial in preventing the onset and progression of gut-related diseases. It appears when the gut bacteria are ‘feeding’ on honey they are producing compounds responsible for this protective effect.
“What we’re finding is that by promoting a healthy gut, we can build a much stronger immune system and increase our resilience to disease. Just 20 grams of honey a day can boost the ‘good’ populations of bacteria in our gut that help protect against different diseases.”
“One of the most exciting findings for us has been the reduction in numbers of a group of bacteria in the gut called clostridioides following treatment with honey. These bacteria can cause some really nasty infections, specifically Clostridium difficile, which triggers severe antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and can quickly progress to life-threatening inflammation of the bowel.”
“Our preliminary research shows that it’s likely many honeys will have some kind of prebiotic activity, but they may be acting in different ways. Some might help to boost numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut, others could support the reduction in numbers of potentially harmful bacteria in the gut (such as C. difficile) and others may help promote the production of beneficial compounds by our gut microbes.”
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