10

votes

Does honey = sugar?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created April 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Is honey equivalent to sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup?

Simply looking at its main constituants, roughly equal amounts of fructose and glucose, I had assumed that eating it would be no different to eating sugar. However some research I have read suggests they are not equivalent.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18211352 Rats fed honey had none of the increase in body fat that the sugar fed rats did. Honey reduced HbA1c levels and increased HDL cholesterol.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12421854 Compared rats fed refined fructose to those fed honey. Fructose increased triglycerides, lowered vitamin E and were less protected from lipid peroxidation. Honey didn't raise tryglycerides, increased vitamin E and increased protection from lipid peroxidation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561 In humans natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects (even at 90 grams a day!). Artificial honey (dextrose and fructose mmixed) made pretty much everything worse.

I find these small studies interesting though I am certainly not advocating eating lots of honey. However our species has probably been consuming small amounts of honey for a very long time. Is this an example of a complex food product acting as more than its main chemical constituents would at first suggest?

What are peoples opinions here on honey and do you include it as part of their diet? Have you noticed any particular effects, positive or negative? Does its occasion use have the same negative effects that many people experience from sugar?

Also heat treated, filtered, pasturised honey from a supermarket is probably not the same as unprossesed honey.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6092)

on April 23, 2010
at 06:38 PM

wasps != honey bees

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on April 21, 2010
at 03:33 AM

But that being said, excellent point about modern vs. Paleo honey; I'd be inclined to stick to local artisanal organic etc. honey on those grounds.

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on April 21, 2010
at 03:27 AM

I'm with Matthew; see my answer below.

20172354416166004d612e7d6bdd2f5e

(352)

on April 19, 2010
at 07:13 AM

It's already been mentioned in this discussion, but honey is ~50% fructose.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on April 19, 2010
at 03:02 AM

honey doesn't really contain more fructose, it just is separated into about half fructose and half glucose instead of being sucrose

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 17, 2010
at 05:44 PM

Actually, plain sucrose is also antibacterial and can be used to dress wounds.

9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:47 PM

Honey can contain botulinum spores and is therefore not recommended for babies younger than 12 months.

9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:45 PM

Honey can contain botulinum spores and is therefore not recommended for baby younger than 12 months.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:43 PM

Certainly not a staple and its abundance is an issue as all foods now. However tropical areas have many stingless honey bees and a smokey fire is enough to pacify a normal colony long enough to steal some honey. As far as I know most surviving hunter-gatherer groups regularly exploit wild bee colonies.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on April 17, 2010
at 01:41 PM

I agree about the agave syrup, although it seems to have a good marketing campaign behind it...

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7 Answers

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7
9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:35 PM

Honey is magic. It has antibacterial properties that make it an excellent topical wound treatment, which also make it extremely shelf-stable. I???m no expert on its metabolic effect (thanks for the links), but I???ve recently added very small amounts of it to my diet, with no ill effect.

I???ve had some honey sitting untouched in my pantry for many months. I had placed it in the same category as table sugar: something to avoid. I???ve also denied myself fruit and tubers in the quest to lose the last 15-20 lbs.

Well, spring is here, and I???ve had enough of that. I???ve started enjoying those foods again, and I???ve also stopped worrying about portions ??? I eat lots of good fats, enough protein to satisfy, then as much veg as I care to have. If I want fruit for dessert (with maybe a little honey on top) I have that, too.

Giving myself more freedom in eating has been good for my spirit. And the weight has started going down again (note: These dietary changes have coincided with the addition of a weekly 20-minute kettelbell routine and more diligence in avoiding bad fats).

Treat honey like a rare and costly thing, and use it where its special flavor will shine.

Primal Ice Cream Recipe: Take a generous handful of frozen blueberries or blackberries; add a few ounces of coconut milk; mix it up so that the coconut milk coats the berries and solidifies like ice cream; then drizzle with honey. Yes, please.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 17, 2010
at 05:44 PM

Actually, plain sucrose is also antibacterial and can be used to dress wounds.

8
20172354416166004d612e7d6bdd2f5e

on April 19, 2010
at 07:07 AM

I'll say this: fructose is toxic. Period. It is shunted immediately to the liver, where it is metabolized with essentially the same metabolic outcome as ethanol (booze). This is not theoretical, it is biochemistry. (This is a LONG video, but starting at minute 43 the Dr. explains the biochemical metabolism of glucose, ethanol and fructose: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM )

Is food more complex than it's macronutrients? yes. Is there ANY other place in the body besides the liver where fructose receptors exist? no.

Honey certainly falls within the bounds of paleo, and I'm sure would have been eaten when possible. We don't have a clue how often that would have been. I personally avoid honey as part of my carbohydrate reduction; it makes it easier/more convincing for me that I'm eliminating a source of fructose.

I'm not calling into question the rigor of the studies mentioned, but two rat studies and a fifteen day human trial are not enough to convince me that there's some mystery about honey that circumvents my knowledge of biochemistry. Here is a particularly concerning quote in the abstract of the human study:

"Honey caused greater elevation of insulin than sucrose did after 30, 120, and 180 minutes."

This is a problem; I won't go into detail as I'm assuming most reading this forum understand the MAJOR benefits of lowering insulin levels. This accentuated insulin response would also explain why plasma glucose levels fell more quickly.

My two cents: Honey fits "paleo" definition. Use it sparingly or avoid it.

20172354416166004d612e7d6bdd2f5e

(352)

on April 19, 2010
at 07:13 AM

It's already been mentioned in this discussion, but honey is ~50% fructose.

5
D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

on April 18, 2010
at 08:43 PM

I think it's a mistake to always reduce a food to its macro or micro nutrients. Food is far more than a nutritional label. The studies in the first post are pretty interesting, and I don't think we should just brush them off.

Personally, I keep a jar of raw honey around, but I don't partake too often. I also don't freak out about a tablespoon here or there. I find a nice dollop mixed with greek yogurt is a great way to replenish liver glycogen before a grueling workout.

I say: give it a shot. Tinker with honey, see how it affects you. That's really the only way to know for sure.

5
6eb2812b40855ba64508cbf2dc48f1b6

(2119)

on April 17, 2010
at 12:44 PM

I would definitely include raw, local honey in very small quantities on occasion because I don't see anything wrong with it. However, I don't really sweeten anything, so I haven't.

On one hand, yes, it's sugar. It's profile is close to table sugar.

On the other hand, natural honey is full of all manner of stuff that's not in sugar and may be good for you on some level.

If I had to pick between honey and, say, agave nectar, I'd pick honey in a heartbeat. Agave nectar is highly processed, and, if you care about such things, is mostly fructose. Honey is something humans have been eating for as long as there have been humans.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on April 17, 2010
at 01:41 PM

I agree about the agave syrup, although it seems to have a good marketing campaign behind it...

3
Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

on April 21, 2010
at 03:26 AM

There's plenty of evidence that hunter-gatherers eat honey, and since bees have been around since the Cretaceous, honey would have been available throughout our evolutionary history. So it's definitely Paleo.

I can't imagine Paleolithic humans passing up a concentrated energy source like that, especially since with smoke it can be harvested relatively painlessly. But I'd expect that it was a rare treat for Grok, and eaten in small doses, so while I'd expect we're adapted to it, I doubt very much that Grok was using it to anywhere near the extent we use sweeteners today.

2
0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

on April 17, 2010
at 03:13 PM

My personal nutrition eliminates honey. I don't think there is anything in it that I can't get elsewhere. The type and abundance of honey available today is likely (my own supposition) vastly changed from Paleolithic times. Much like today's dairy and fruit abundance and availability. All this is arguable.

But then high fat raw dairy certainly can have a place in our Paleo-guided nutrition, for some folks to the extent of being a staple. It is not Paleo-reinactment to focus on, but the metabolic impact of these foods! I think we'd all agree the purest wildest raw honey should not be consumed as a staple food.

A couple years ago I had the arduous task of eliminating some wasp nests around my house. HOLY MOLEY, those things are fierce. I'd imagine our paleolithic ancestors up against that onslaught of venom and fury for a cup of honey and have to imagine they would take a pass, and simply go for some meat. Honey bees and honey gathering is certainly a product of agriculture and thus is a novel food with minor history of consumption. I seem to recall reading (no source, sorry) that prosperous egyptians got plenty of grains, honey and beer, and there is plenty of evidence of obesity, heart disease, and the like among those classes.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:43 PM

Certainly not a staple and its abundance is an issue as all foods now. However tropical areas have many stingless honey bees and a smokey fire is enough to pacify a normal colony long enough to steal some honey. As far as I know most surviving hunter-gatherer groups regularly exploit wild bee colonies.

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on April 21, 2010
at 03:27 AM

I'm with Matthew; see my answer below.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6092)

on April 23, 2010
at 06:38 PM

wasps != honey bees

Ce0b5fd94b1034e96cf710b6f138c29d

(4089)

on April 21, 2010
at 03:33 AM

But that being said, excellent point about modern vs. Paleo honey; I'd be inclined to stick to local artisanal organic etc. honey on those grounds.

0
D15d6820ef1545edac65e975cc2d8949

on April 17, 2010
at 03:16 PM

Honey is worse than sugar in that it contains more fructose, and is even dangerous (allergenic) to small children.

If you like it, sure, but e.g. giving up on butter 'cause it's not paleo while eating honey, well...

9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:45 PM

Honey can contain botulinum spores and is therefore not recommended for baby younger than 12 months.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on April 19, 2010
at 03:02 AM

honey doesn't really contain more fructose, it just is separated into about half fructose and half glucose instead of being sucrose

9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on April 17, 2010
at 03:47 PM

Honey can contain botulinum spores and is therefore not recommended for babies younger than 12 months.

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