Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, affects millions of people worldwide and increases the risk of neurological, cardiovascular, and cognitive complications. A recent study demonstrated that consumption of commercially available honey didn’t benefit diabetic rats in terms of water intake, urine output, fasting glucose concentrations, insulin and leptin levels, and body weight.
In 2014, diabetes affected an estimated 387 million people worldwide, and its prevalence has only become more widespread since. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, characterized by the improper production of insulin (type I) or the lack of insulin sensitivity (type II), which lead to hyperglycemia and clinical complications. The widespread implications of diabetes have forced researchers to ramp up efforts to find novel therapeutic options for patients. Honey has been used for various other illness because of its proposed beneficial antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antihyperglycemic properties. Studies investigating the efficacy of honey for diabetes, however, have remained controversial due to conflicting results. To clear up some of the controversy in the literature, a recent paper in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic disorders assessed the effects of commercially available bee honey on rats with drug-induced diabetes.
In the prospective study, researchers randomly assigned 36 rats into six different groups: non-diabetic control rats (given no therapy), non-diabetic rats given honey, diabetic control rats (given no therapy), diabetic rats given honey alone, diabetic rats given insulin alone, or diabetic rats given insulin and honey together. Diabetes was induced by a single injection, following an 18-hour starvation period, of streptozotocin (STZ). The treatments began three weeks after STZ-induced diabetes and were administered over a four-week duration. After completion of treatment, water intake, urine output, fasting blood glucose concentration, and leptin and insulin blood concentrations were measured.
It was found that diabetic rats had a significantly higher water intake and urine output compared to non-diabetic rats. Administration of honey failed to improve these parameters in the diabetic rats, indicative of a lack of therapeutic effect on diabetes. Furthermore, honey administration failed to improve diabetes-induced decreases in body weight. Researchers also found that honey failed to reduce the elevated fasting blood glucose concentrations observed in diabetic rats, whereas insulin did. This confirms the blood glucose lowering effects of insulin in diabetic patients, but also suggests that honey carries no such clinical benefit. High insulin levels, or hyperinsulinemia, are associated with more adverse outcomes. The lack of a beneficial effect of honey in reducing the high insulin levels further reaffirmed the notion that it may not be a viable therapeutic option. Finally, honey, insulin, and their combination, increased leptin levels in diabetic rats. The association between leptin and diabetic status is controversial; some studies suggest there is a direct correlation between the two, whereas others show a lack of such association.
In conclusion, the authors found that honey did not significantly improve diabetic parameters, and had no reason to believe that it is a viable therapeutic option for diabetes. The study had several limitations, including the low number of rats, and the use of a single type of honey at a single dose. Experimenting with different sources of honey and different doses may be interesting for further studies. Additionally, the experiments were conducted in rats and the effects of honey in humans may yield completely different outcomes. Moreover, the study used a drug-induced model of diabetes, which may not accurately recapitulate all aspects of the pathology in humans.
Written By: Haisam Shah, BSc