Honey and Diabetes
You may have heard that honey is a preferred alternative to other sweeteners for those who have diabetes or are at high risk for it. While honey has certain health benefits, it is still a simple sugar and carbohydrate source.
This article presents everything you need to know about honey and diabetes, pulling from available research.
- Protein 0.3 g
- Carbohydrate 82 g
- Fat 0 g
- Fiber 0.2 g
- Sugar 82 g
- Cholesterol 0 g
Nutritional Value of Honey
One tablespoon of raw honey contains 63.8 calories and 17.3 g of carbs, according to the USDA. Its low-calorie content makes it a decent sweetener for people looking to lose weight. While it contains zero fat, it offers only a tiny amount of fiber and protein.
Honey also has a medium glycemic index (GI) of 58, a little lesser than sugar’s value of 60. This means it might cause sugar surges following consumption, but still not as fast as sugar.
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Benefits of Honey for Diabetics
The benefits of honey for a diabetic patient are numerous. This section highlights the most significant ones.
Boosts Blood Sugar levels
The blood sugar-lowering effects of honey are explored in a Journal of Medicinal Food study. According to the research, a solution containing 75 g of honey boosted plasma glucose levels by 14% in one hour and slashed it by 10% after three hours.
Interestingly, the research also points out the insulin-secreting properties of honey. This explains why honey produced a lower plasma glucose level (PGL) at 1, 2, and 3 hours after administration than sucrose, despite an initial higher PGL at the 30-minute mark.
Honey was also found to boost C-peptide levels—a by-product of pancreatic insulin production—in a 2013 study conducted on 50 type 1 diabetes patients.
Natural honey contains antioxidants like kaempferol, quercetin, acacetin, galanin, and caffeine acid phenethyl ester (CAPE). Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals. This is particularly beneficial as oxidative stress is associated with various chronic health issues, including cardiovascular and microvascular complications.
A Nature Metabolism paper associates the presence of bacteria in body tissues with obesity and identifies it as a type 2 diabetes marker. Thankfully, honey is a natural antibacterial and antimicrobial substance.
Namely, its hydrogen peroxide and glucose oxidase content, coupled with its low pH, makes it effective against bacteria and fungi. It also inhibits the growth of yeast and bacteria due to its unique chemical composition. More particularly, research suggests manuka honey, a form of raw honey, to retain considerable antibacterial properties, even when its hydrogen peroxide activities are inhibited.
Promotes Wound Healing
Honey has been shown in numerous trials to be an effective wound healing dressing. Wounds on diabetic persons often heal slowly or sometimes don't heal at all. This is due to poor circulation that inhibits the adequate flow of blood and essential nutrients to the wound site.
Thankfully, when applied as a dressing, honey’s acidic nature prompts oxygen release from hemoglobin, making the wound areas less habitable for destructive proteases. Its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant characteristics also help timely recovery from sores.
Aids Heart Health
For people with diabetes, honey is "less bad" than sugar when it comes to controlling cholesterol. Namely, it can lower numerous heart disease risk factors that are frequent in patients with type 2 diabetes. It may, for instance, reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, which aids heart health.
Optimal heart function is essential in diabetics to avoid cardiovascular complications — a potential diabetes risk factor and complication.
Additional Honey and Diabetes Research
There've been several pieces of research about honey and prediabetes as well as its effect on diabetes. Notably, one Turkish research reveals that eating 5–25 g of honey daily for four months reduced glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels in type 2 diabetes patients — a marker of blood sugar levels. Conversely, one two-month study on 48 type 2 diabetes patients confirms an increase in HbA1c levels following honey consumption.
Due to this disparity in findings, you should consume honey with discretion if you have diabetes.
More interestingly, a formula of buckwheat honey in water has been found to boost serum antioxidant capacity by 7%. Antioxidants, like those found in honey, have been associated with a lower incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and cancer — possible diabetes complications and risk factors.
Is Honey Safe for Diabetics?
Honey may or may not be a smart choice for diabetics, according to experts. While it boasts commendable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, crucial for diabetics, some other meals offer similar properties without raising blood sugar levels. Hence, you might want to leave honey out of the mix if your blood sugar levels fluctuate easily.
Honey is good for diabetes when consumed in moderation, as it possesses specific characteristics that may aid diabetes management. However, certain studies reveal it can cause blood sugar spikes as well. Hence, it’s advised you consult your doctor or dietician on its safety.
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