Curr Med Chem, 2012 Dec 28
In the long human tradition honey has been used not only as a nutrient but also as a medicine. Its composition is rather variable and depends on the floral source and on external factors, such as seasonal, environmental conditions and processing.
In this review, specific attention is focused on absorption, metabolism, and beneficial biological activities on human health of honey compounds.
Honey is a supersaturated solution of sugars, mainly composed of fructose (38%) and glucose (31%), containing also minerals, proteins, free amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and polyphenols. Among polyphenols, flavonoids are the most abundant and are closely related to its biological functions.
Honey positively affects risk factors for cardiovascular diseases by inhibiting inflammation, improving endothelial function, as well as the plasma lipid profile, and increasing low-density lipoprotein resistance to oxidation. Honey also displays an important antitumoral capacity, where polyphenols again are considered responsible for its complementary and overlapping mechanisms of chemopreventive activity in multistage carcinogenesis, by inhibiting mutagenesis or inducing apoptosis.
Moreover, honey positively modulates the glycemic response by reducing blood glucose, serum fructosamine or glycosylated hemoglobin concentrations and exerts antibacterial properties caused by its consistent amount of hydrogen peroxide and non-peroxide factors as flavonoids, methylglyoxal and defensin-1 peptide.
In conclusion, the evidence of the biological actions of honey can be ascribed to its polyphenolic contents which, in turn, are usually associated to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as to its cardiovascular, antiproliferative and antimicrobial benefits.