Fighting Cancer SERIES – What’s for tea, honey?

We are going to talk about honey today. What, honey? Isn’t it just another form of sugar? Yes, it is. Nevertheless, wait a moment before writing honey off and let us show you what nutritional benefits you can get from it.

If you want to understand better what sugar is and how it works in our metabolism, we have an interesting blog post for you .

People often wonder whether replacing sugar with honey is a healthy choice, as honey is known to be just as sweet and rich in carbohydrates. This might be true. However, while refined sugar does not contain any further nutrients apart from simple carbohydrates, honey is a source of a plenitude of minerals, vitamins, natural antibiotics, phenolic compounds and enzymes with strong health benefits. When we eat sugar, we basically ingest so called ‘empty calories’ whereas honey brings a series of health benefits to the table alongside with its pleasant sweetness. Today we are going to concentrate on its influence on cancer development.

Honey has been demonstrated to be cytotoxic against cancer cells, this means that it leads to the cell’s death. Most promising results have been obtained in correlation with breast, liver and colorectal cancer while few other studies suggest the same results in further cancer types. Interestingly, the constituents of honey are involved in not only one, but in many different mechanisms, therefore tackling cancer cells in various ways.

Those mechanisms involve:

  • Regulation of cell cycle: Every cell must undergo several stages in order to multiply. While a defective cell is supposed to leave this cycle, cancer cells are immune to this natural inhibition and keep on proliferating.
  • Activation of mitochondrial pathway: Mitochondria are the energy producers of the cell. When the cell suffers stress, these small cellular organs release chemicals into the cell lumen that promote cell death.
  • Induction of apoptosis: Apoptosis is the natural cell death mechanism that eliminates defective cells.
  • Modulation of oxidative stress: This process is characterised by formation of free radicals, which can cause defects in cellular metabolism, damage the cell’s DNA and integrity.
  • Decreasing inflammation: Chronic inflammation can lead to cancer development.
  • Inhibition of angiogenesis: When a tumour reaches a certain size, new blood vessels are formed to supply it with nutrients and oxygen, a process called angiogenesis. Without these new vessels the tumour starves out from within. [Reference 1]

There is another way in which honey can be used in regard to cancer. More than half of the patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from oral mucositis. This condition a side effect of the chemotherapy which is characterized by sore and inflamed mouth cavity, making eating and drinking painful. This in turn puts the patient under malnutrition risk. Honey can help postpone the onset of oral mucositis and alleviate the symptoms. [Reference 2]

Last but not least, we would like to stress out that all those medicinal properties can only be found in raw honey. As the rules for honey labelling are quite lose, conventional store honeys can be labelled as raw despite being highly processed. We therefore recommend you buying honey from local producers. This way, you make sure to get a high-quality product and support the local apiculture. So next time when you reach out for sugar to put into your tea, you might consider swapping it for some aromatic locally produced honey and enjoy the sweetness without any bad conscience.

healthy regards