January 12, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Raw Honey

I thought that the claims about honey being an "immune enhancer" were referring primarily to raw/unprocessed honey.

Is there enough difference between processed and unprocessed honey to make a difference?

-- Kristin

Via the blog

The topic of raw honey is quite convoluted.

For one, there is no legal definition of what raw honey is, meaning there is no set of criteria manufacturers must meet to label their honey as "raw."

The consensus among raw honey enthusiasts, however, is that raw honey is completely unfiltered and unheated, and sold as it exists in the beehive (wax and the occasional bee leg included).

Apart from offering a much different taste from the honey sold in conventional supermarkets, advocates claim raw honey is healthier due to the presence of pollen and living enzymes.

This is where the "unheated" part becomes controversial. After all, raw honey crystallizes and must be heated in order to liquify for consumption.

The raw honey crowd claims this is irrelevant, since
they make sure not to heat raw honey past the 105 degrees Fahrenheit mark (the "magic number" for raw foodists, since this is the temperature where the enzymes they so desperately crave are killed.)

Let's discuss.

First up, pollen. Raw honey-ers believe the flower pollen found in local raw honey is great for allergy control, as it allows the consumer to create a tolerance -- and not develop allergies to -- local pollen.

However, the vast majority of pollen allergies in humans relate to grass, not flowers.

As far as living enzymes in raw honey, I simply don't see the relevance to human nutrition.

Enzymes creates by bees don't play any role in human physiology or metabolism.

Besides, enzymes are proteins, so they get broken down during digestion anyway.

For what it's worth, this small, 36-subject study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in 2002 didn't find any difference between raw honey and a placebo when treating symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.


Kristin said...

Thanks! So I guess the verdict us, use it if you like the flavor better.

Andy Bellatti said...

Yes. Some "raw honey is a miracle food" believers recommend having four to six tablespoons a day, which is a 240 - 360 calorie habit.

All honey, raw or otherwise, is concentrated sugar.