Honey and its nutritional and anti-inflammatory value

· Melipona,Anti-bacterial,anti-inflammatory

Inflammation is a main key role in the development of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases which possess a huge challenge for treatment. With massively compelling evidence of the role played by nutritional modulation in preventing inflammation-related diseases, there is a growing interest in the search for naturally functional foods with therapeutic and preventive actions. 

Honey, a nutritional healthy product, is produced mainly by two types of bees: honeybees and stingless bees. Since both types of honey possess distinctive phenolic and flavonoid compounds, there is recently an intensive interest in their biological and clinical actions against inflammation-mediated chronic diseases. This review shed the light specifically on the bioavailability and bioaccessibility of honey polyphenols and highlights their roles in targeting inflammatory pathways in gastrointestinal tract disorders, edema, cancer, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and gut microbiota.

Honeybees which are named in Latin Apis, use the collected nectar from plants to produce honey after regurgitation and digestion of nectar. Several biological compounds from honeybees are added during honey formation. Honeybees store honey to be used during winter. Their wings fan the honey to evaporate the water content in nectar to avoid the fermentation of honey. Honey has been used to treat a variety of ailments such as gastric disturbance, skin burns, and ulcers [1]. 

Currently, two types of honey are produced globally: traditional Apis mellifera honey and stingless bee honey. Honey has been reported to have health benefits that are antioxidant [2], anti-proliferative [3], and anti-bacterial [4]. The purpose of this review is to summarize another aspect of honey’s health benefit which is the anti-inflammatory studies of honey underlying the possible mechanisms involved in the response to honey supplementation on inflammation-mediated chronic diseases as proposed by a wide collection of scientific papers in the literature.

Honey composition

Honey contains macro and micronutrients which depends basically on various factors: 1) bee type, 2) floral source, and 3) environmental and processing factors. In general, there are approximately 200 compounds in honey such as sugar, protein, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and a wide range of polyphenols. The variety ratio of these compounds results in a different color, taste, viscosity, and therapeutic activities of each honey. In this sense, the combination of all these compounds performs synergistically in different aspects of applications [5]. Most honey over the world share 80% of the physical properties and chemical composition. Based on that, various methods have been developed to discriminate the entomological origins of honey and other factors using nuclear magnetic resonance [6]. The previous techniques provide the literature with specific results related to the differences in composition between Apis mellifera honey and stingless bee honey.

Macronutrients of honey

The macronutrient composition of honey as shown in Fig. 1 represents an interesting source of carbohydrates which is the main core of honey and supports the anti-spoilage properties. The carbohydrate ratio is ranged from 60 to 95% of its dry weight including mono-, di- and tri-saccharides where floral type is a key factor in modulating this ratio [7]. More than 20 types of carbohydrates have been identified in honey samples from different parts of the world [8]. The principal carbohydrate that existed is fructose followed by glucose with 28–40% and 20–35%, respectively, while the disaccharide and trisaccharide concentrations are around 5 and 1%, respectively [9]. The most identified disaccharides are maltose, maltulose, turanose, sucrose, and nigerose whereas a few trisaccharides such as erlose, centose, isomaltotrios, panose, psopanose, and ketose are found in the small amount [10].

The protein content of honey is roughly ranged from 0.2–0.5% in form of enzymes and free amino acids. Generally, the total amount of free amino acid in the honey range approximately between 10 and 200 mg/100 g honey, and proline contribute 50% of total amino acid [11]. G-aminobutyric acid and ornithine have been identified in honey samples in addition to b-alanine and a-alanine [12]. While the main source of protein and amino acid is pollen, honeybees contribute to modifying this profile through regurgitation. Defensin-1 protein has been found in bee hemolymph and subsequently in different honey samples except for Manuka honey [13]. Lipids quantity in most honey samples is negligible about 0.002%. Plants and wax take part primarily in the exitance of various lipids compounds in form of acids such as palmitic, oleic, meristic, and linoleic acid [14].

Micronutrients of honey

The minerals and vitamins profile in honey are varied according to floral type and geographic origin, representing 0.2–0.5% of honey dry weight. Although essential minerals and elements are traced in honey, the human body needs them to perform several biological actions perfectly [15]. Several studies have been conducted to determine the mineral content in honey samples over the world in order to reveal the existence of contaminant minerals [16, 17]. Potassium and sodium constitute mostly 80% of total minerals while iron, copper, and manganese are rare in quantity. Moreover, trace elements have been recruited recently for identification purposes of different unifloral kinds of honey [18]. To illustrate more, the presence mixture of potassium, cadmium, and nickel was implemented as a strong indicator to distinguish honeydew honey while barium and lead were specific components of rape honey [19]. With respect to vitamins, one study has found thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, and ascorbic acid in several honey samples, however, their amount does not correspond with the recommended daily intake of humans [20]. The lipids and fat-soluble vitamin content in honey are hard to detect.

Enzymes in honey

Unlike other sweetening agents, honey contains various active enzymes that play a key role in its biological function. The source of these enzymes is probably from nectar, bee, or microorganisms in honey [21]. Invertase, glucose oxidase, and diastase are the main enzymes in the honey. Although invertase is involved in catalyzing sucrose into its constituent in honey, a small amount of sucrose is still present in the final stage of honey ripening [22]. Diastase’s function is to break down the chemical bonds in starch and mainly in maltose, even though starch is not detected in any honey samples. Thus, the original function of diastase in honey remains unclear, however, few methods have been developed to measure diastase as a quality indicator of honey, where the quality of honey is positively proportional to the diastase amount [7, 22]. Glucose oxidase is one of carbohydrate metabolizing enzymes. The nativity of glucose oxidase is the pharyngeal glands of bee and thus its amount is varied. Glucose oxidase breakdown glucose into gluconic acid, which is one of the importance honey acids, and hydrogen peroxidase. The presence of glucose oxidase has prevented the microbial growth in honey [23]. However, glucose oxidase could be affected by many factors which explain, in part, of its absence in various types of honey samples [13].

Bioaccessibility and bioavailability of honey polyphenols

The presence of polyphenol in honey is believed to be from the plant’s nectar while polyphenols quality and quantity depend on the geographical region, floral source, climatic conditions, and bee type [7]. Therefore, one study has suggested that polyphenol profile of honey could be as a floral marker to verify the botanical origin [24]. The attempts to identify the phenolic profile of honey samples have been noticed in many food analytical studies [2, 25]. Most of these studies have utilized mainly HPLC-UV and HPLC-DAD for quantification and identification purposes with various modified methods. However, LC-MS/MS has been concluded to be more accurate than LC-MS, while GC-MS has been recruited mainly to identify the volatile compounds [26]. Furthermore, the previous mentioned technologies contribute to creating phenolic profiles for many types of honey despite of the complex chemical structure of honey. Thus, developing an optimized method to identify and quantify polyphenols in honey is still required.

Potential health benefits of honey against inflammation

Innate immunity relies strongly on inflammation which is defined generally as the natural response to cellular injury. The biological changes are 1) increased blood flow and capillary distillation, 2) leukocyte infiltration, and 3) releasing localized chemoattractants to recruiter immunity cells. The main objectives of these changes are to eliminate the pathogen agents and repair the damage tissue [69]. However, non-resolving inflammation as result of chronic bacterial infection (LPS infusion) or obesity or aging paves the onset of low-grade chronic inflammation which subsequently develop various chronic diseases. In this context, supporting the consumption of natural products in favor of resolving inflammation and supporting hemostasis is the main reason for examining these products on numerous trials. Honey has been suggested as an immune-modulatory agent with dual role: (1) anti-inflammatory activities through downregulating the inflammatory transcription factors (NF-κB and MAPK) and/or suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and (2) stimulate the production of inflammatory mediators such as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) [68]. 



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There is solid evidence (numerous cases and scientific studies) showing that Meliponini Tribe Bees Honey (Melipona Stingless bees) with its bioactive compounds such as proteins, flavonoids, and polyphenols, with a high antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity, is a natural product indicated for the treatment of diseases, even serious ones like cancer.


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