The Meal Matters Most

What Makes Healthy Food Healthy: From a Stress Perspective

Is Honey not Healthy? A Rebuttal to the Recent Science.

Leave a comment

Recent headlines highlight a study conducted by the USDA investigating if honey has the same negative health impacts as sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  The study by Dr. Susan K. Raatz concludes that any source of sugar will have the same health impact; that sugar is sugar. An article discussing the study was published in the Washington Post by reporter Peter Whoriskey entitled “Honey isn’t as healthy as we think”.  Subsequent articles followed with headlines such as “Honey just as bad as high-fructose corn sweetener” and “A New Study Comes Down Hard on Honey“, among dozens of others from SHAPE, Women’s Health to reposting’s on facebook and twitter by the Kitchn and even writer David Lebovitz. That was enough.

It is not just the HFCS debate that should be of concern here but the state of our health “science”; including the media bureaucracy that is controversially misleading the public.  This particular study, could be considered borderline slander and deserves high scrutiny for ignoring the entire scientific pool of evidence.

Let’s go over how overly simplistic the logic is.  I’m not talking lip service to a “natural” sweetener here. I’m talking about an assault against science that this can make its way to national headlines as some definite proof that HFCS is the same as every other sugar, including honey.

The very nature of this science research by the USDA is what is referred to as linear science. Linear science is reductionistic in that it finds a single cause and single outcome. In this study Kaatz looked at a short-time impact of different sources of sugar on the same health measures. In this study they especially looked at a blood fat that we know as Triglyceride, or TG.  Now let’s look at their logic.

1. Fructose is found in honey and HFCS:  True

2. Increased TGs represent metabolic distress (bad health): Sorta True

3. Fructose causes increased TGs: True

4. Both HFCS and Honey cause an increase in TGs equally: True

5. Therefore HFCS and Honey are equally as bad for you: False

The conclusion outlined in the study and articles is that Honey and HFCS are equally as bad for you. This is based on an increase in TGs (among other measures). However, it’s a presumptuous jump. Because an increase alone in TGs isn’t necessarily what’s bad for you. So its only sorta true that TGs represent poor health.  Why? Because it is not just about an increase in TGs, it is also about their clearance from the blood. An increase is normal, them sticking around and causing havoc is not. This study only measured a short-term spike in TGs from the added sweeteners, not the long-term damage or benefits.

What makes TGs stay in the blood longer and create more damage? The answer to that in one word is stress. And what clears the stress and TGs sooner from our blood and can prevent long-term chronic health issues? If you said the anti-stress activities of antioxidants and polyphenols found in honey, you would be correct.

This is taking a Stress Perspective approach to getting to the truth of a situation. Yes, fructose causes stress. And when under stress our body takes protective measures such as increasing the amount of fat in our blood. So yes, fructose will raise biomarkers for stress, like the blood fat marker (triglycerides), no matter the source. It is the nature of fructose.

Why does fructose cause stress?  Similar to what happens when we burn fuel (which is one reason why fructose can be beneficial, its a remarkable fuel source); but we also get byproducts. Those byproducts need to be cleaned up or accommodated for, so the body signals that there is a stress. How well we are able to “clean up” these byproducts and handle the stress depends upon the condition of our body and the condition of our diet.  Like if our diet or foods contain antioxidants and polyphenols which “clean-up” these byproducts then while it can be a short-term stress, it can be a long term benefit. (see references below)

Honey has its own built in clean-up substances while HFCS does not.

What this interpretation of evidence clearly lacks is a full understanding of how these diseases and outcomes occur.  This study, and others like it, lack the fundamental framework to understand stress dynamics. Once one takes a “stress perspective” of the total affects of the body, it becomes apparent that the “sugar is sugar” argument made by Dr. Raatz is a misleading statement, if not flat-out false.  To understand how the body utilizes these simply carbohydrates, one must account for the holistic aspects of interaction and complex outcomes. Sugar exists in larger contexts.  Unless a particular outcome occurs in a straight line with a single cause and outcome, it’s absurd to use reductionist principals to come to global conclusions.  This study is a perfect example of the misuse of science to mislead the public.

Stress, Biomarkers and the Complex Dance

When we look at biomarkers, like TG, as the definitive answer as to whether something is healthy or not. It is the wrong way to look at stress. We don’t want to eliminate all stress parameters of the body. Quite the opposite. We want to become more resilient to stress and be able to take it on.  We want stress. In this particular circumstance it may be the stress we get from a very high and efficient energy source. In regard to fructose, it could be seen as the highest grade octane fuel in nature. When consuming such a great fuel source, it comes at a cost to the body. The study and subsequent article would like for us to believe that all sugar sources are equal because they all have glucose, sucrose and most importantly here, fructose. So if there are benefits and costs, they aptly apply to all types of sources equally. However, in reality this may not be the case, because honey has the nutrients to counter that stress, clear the triglycerides from the blood and improve health in the long run.  Makers of synthesized sugars such as HFCS have a vested interests in progressing this belief that honey is the same as regular sugar and HFCS.  And it is of great benefit to be able to use a linear science to direct research with a limited scope. It allows them to massage the variables in such a way as to produce the results they are looking for.

This is one study that tells us a given fact, but it is not what the whole of the evidence suggests.

Can we just take antioxidants and not have the sugar?

This is a good question. Can we have just all good and none (what we consider) of the bad? Not really, we find in studies that when we give the body antioxidants indiscriminately or front-load them, it backfires, it causes more stress (stress is about accurately reading and responding to the environment). What is needed it seems is that complex dance. We need antioxidants together with the energy (calories) and stress we get from foods. We need the antioxidants to cover the energy benefits we get from sources of sugar, sources of energy that naturally come with a cost, or byproducts that create stress. Getting nothing but antioxidants from our diets would not be beneficial if we didn’t also get the stress and the needed calories from the diet. It exists in this complex balance and dance that reductionistic science doesn’t have the tools or functionality to conceptualize or map out. Linear reductionistic science can measure and find points of information, but in order to truly understand the interaction and long-term consequences we must use a Systems, or holisitic science, like stress dynamics, to put that information together.

Does honey deserve to be seen as a health food?

The answer is neither “yes” or “no”. The answer is “it depends”. It depends on what kind of stress the sugar(s) cause or abate. In most cases, honey can abate its own stress. While there are benefits to fructose, and stress can typically be attenuated by the antioxidants and polyphenols, there will be rare circumstances when honey is a contributor to metabolic stress in the body.  Honey is still a high energy sugar source.  Calories can tip a system into toxic distress.  So in some cases it may be that any additional sugar is toxic to the system. Honey added to an already overloaded system, the antioxidants may not be enough or what’s needed to keep the balance.

The “stress dance” is of benefit to us.

However, what we see from the evidence is the potential for many benefits of honey. Evidence that honey might even be used to treat and prevent metabolic disorders. Honey may even be considered an anti-diabetic. Is there a single study that says this about HFCS?

The evidence seems to tell us that honey has health benefits beyond other sources of sugar. And HFCS, in an already poor diet with other fake fats, oils, flavorings, chemicals and deficiencies is a major contributor to our epidemics of health.

Peter Whoriskey tells us in his article that The Mayo Clinic, the FDA and “many health authorities, say that evidence of any potential harm from HFCS, at least relative to other sweeteners, is scant at best” and “At this time, there’s insufficient evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners.”

I agree that it is tough for any of these organizations to make any solid statements… how could they, they aren’t even using the correct scientific framework yet.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Protective effect of fructose on survival and metabolic capacities of hepatocytes kept overnight under cold hypoxia before normothermic reoxygenation.
Evdokimova E1, Martos M, Buc Calderon PM.Food Chem Toxicol. 1997 Jul;35(7):669-75. LINK

Protective effects of matrine against progression of high-fructose diet-induced steatohepatitis by enhancing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defences involving Nrf2 translocation. Zhang HF1, Shi LJ, Song GY, 2013 May;55:70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.12.043. Epub 2013 Jan 4. LINK

Protective effect of thymoquinone against high-fructose diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. Prabhakar P1, Reeta KH, Maulik SK. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Oct. 28 LINK

A dose-response study of consuming high-fructose corn syrup-sweetened beverages on lipid/lipoprotein risk factors for cardiovascular disease in young adults. Stanhope KL1, Medici V2, Bremer AA. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1144-54. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.100461. Epub 2015 Apr 22. LINK

Health effects of fructose and fructose-containing caloric sweeteners: where do we stand 10 years after the initial whistle blowings?  Tappy L1, Lê KA.Curr Diab Rep. 2015 Aug;15(8):627. doi: 10.1007/s11892-015-0627-0. LINK

Soybean Oil Is More Obesogenic and Diabetogenic than Coconut Oil and Fructose in Mouse: Potential Role for the Liver. Deol P1, Evans JR1, Dhahbi J2, PLoS One. 2015 Jul 22;10(7):e0132672. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132672. eCollection 2015. LINK

Effect of honey intake on serum cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein levels in albino rats and potential benefits on risks of coronary heart disease.
Alagwu EA1, Okwara JE, Nneli RO, Niger J Physiol Sci. 2011 Dec 20;26(2):161-5. LINK

Effects of natural honey on blood glucose and lipid profile in young healthy Pakistani males. Majid M, Younis MA, Naveed AK. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2013 Jul-Dec;25(3-4):44-7. LINK

Metabolic effects of honey in type 1 diabetes mellitus: a randomized crossover pilot study. Abdulrhman MM1, El-Hefnawy MH, Aly RH, J Med Food. 2013 Jan;16(1):66-72. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.0108. Epub 2012 Dec 20. LINK

A macroepigenetic approach to identify factors responsible for the autism epidemic in the United States. Renee Dufault, 1,2 Walter J Lukiw,3 Raquel Crider. Clin Epigenetics. 2012; 4(1): 6. . doi:  10.1186/1868-7083-4-6 LINK

The effect of honey compared to sucrose, mixed sugars, and a sugar-free diet on weight gain in young rats. Chepulis LM. J Food Sci. 2007 Apr;72(3):S224-9. LINK

Triglyceride kinetics: effects of dietary glucose, sucrose, or fructose alone or with hyperinsulinemia. Kazumi T, Vranic M, Steiner G. Am J Physiol. 1986 Mar;250(3 Pt 1):E325-30. LINK

Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding. Shapiro A1, Mu W, Roncal C. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2008 Nov;295(5):R1370-5. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00195.2008. Epub 2008 Aug 13. LINK

Association of fructose consumption and components of metabolic syndrome in human studies: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Kelishadi R1, Mansourian M2, Heidari-Beni M3. Nutrition. 2014 May;30(5):503-10. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.08.014. LINK

Misconceptions about fructose-containing sugars and their role in the obesity epidemic. Vincent J. van Buul, 1 Luc Tappy, 2 and Fred J. P. H. Brouns. Nutr Res Rev. 2014 Jun; 27(1): 119–130. doi:  10.1017/S0954422414000067 LINK

Honey promotes lower weight gain, adiposity, and triglycerides than sucrose in rats. Nemoseck TM1, Carmody EG, Furchner-Evanson A,Nutr Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):55-60. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.11.002. LINK

The type of caloric sweetener added to water influences weight gain, fat mass, and reproduction in growing Sprague-Dawley female rats.
Light HR1, Tsanzi E, Gigliotti J, Morgan K, Tou JC.Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 Jun;234(6):651-61. doi: 10.3181/0812-RM-368. Epub 2009 Apr 9. LINK

α-Tocopherol Improves Microcirculatory Dysfunction on Fructose Fed Hamsters. Boa BC1, Barros CM1, Souza Md1PLoS One. 2015 Aug 5;10(8):e0134740. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134740. eCollection 2015. LINK

Hold the antioxidants and improve plasma lipids?
Ronald M. Krauss. J Clin Invest. 2004 May 1; 113(9): 1253–1255.
doi:  10.1172/JCI200421637 LINK

Tualang honey supplement improves memory performance and hippocampal morphology in stressed ovariectomized rats. Al-Rahbi B1, Zakaria R2, Othman Z3,Acta Histochem. 2014 Jan;116(1):79-88. doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 Jun 26. LINK

Cardioprotective Effects of Tualang Honey: Amelioration of Cholesterol and Cardiac Enzymes Levels. Khalil MI1, Tanvir EM2, Afroz R2. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:286051. doi: 10.1155/2015/286051. Epub 2015 May 3. LINK

Effect of honey in diabetes mellitus: matters arising. Omotayo O Erejuwa J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2014; 13: 23.  LINK

The effects of long-term honey, sucrose or sugar-free diets on memory and anxiety in rats. Chepulis LM1, Starkey NJ, Waas JR, Molan PC.Physiol Behav. 2009 Jun 22;97(3-4):359-68. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.03.001. Epub 2009 Mar 16. LINK

Effects of sucrose and high fructose corn syrup consumption on spatial memory function and hippocampal neuroinflammation in adolescent rats.  Hsu TM1, Konanur VR, Taing L,Hippocampus. 2015 Feb;25(2):227-39. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22368. Epub 2014 Oct 3. LINK

Long-term high fructose and saturated fat diet affects plasma fatty acid profile in rats.  Fabrice Tranchida,1 Léopold Tchiakpe,2 Zo Rakotoniaina, J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2012 Apr; 13(4): 307–317.  LINK

Effects of High-Fructose Diets on Central Appetite Signaling and Cognitive Function Katrien. Lowette,1,2 Lina Roosen,1,2 Jan Tack,2 Front Nutr. 2015; 2: 5.  LINK

The relation between dietary fructose, dietary fat and leptin responsiveness in rats. Haring SJ1, Harris RB.Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):914-22. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.05.032. Epub 2011 Jun 13. LINK

Maternal fructose intake induces insulin resistance and oxidative stress in male, but not female, offspring. Rodríguez L1, Otero P1, Panadero MI1 J Nutr Metab. 2015;2015:158091. doi: 10.1155/2015/158091. Epub 2015 Feb 11. LINK

Effect of honey on the reproductive system of male rat offspring exposed to prenatal restraint stress. Haron MN1, Mohamed M2.Andrologia. 2015 Aug 20. doi: 10.1111/and.12473. LINK

Bee’s honey attenuates non-alcoholic steatohepatitis-induced hepatic injury through the regulation of thioredoxin-interacting protein-NLRP3 inflammasome pathway. Xiao J1, Liu Y, Xing F, Eur J Nutr. 2015 Jul 2.  LINK

Effect of natural honey from Ilam and metformin for improving glycemic control in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Ozra Nasrolahi,1,* Reza Heidari, Fatima Rahmani,Avicenna J Phytomed. 2012 Autumn; 2(4): 212–221.  LINK

Effect of the Combination of Gelam Honey and Ginger on Oxidative Stress and Metabolic Profile in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Sprague-Dawley Rats.
Nur Fathiah Abdul Sani, Levin Kesu Belani, Chong Pui Sin, Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 160695. doi:  10.1155/2014/160695 LINK

Comparison of antioxidant effects of honey, glibenclamide, metformin, and their combinations in the kidneys of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.
Erejuwa OO1, Sulaiman SA, Wahab MS.  Int J Mol Sci. 2011 Jan 21;12(1):829-43. doi: 10.3390/ijms12010829.

Potential protective effects of Nigella sativa and Allium sativum against fructose-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. Al-Rasheed N1, Al-Rasheed N, Bassiouni Y, J Oleo Sci. 2014;63(8):839-48. LINK

Effects of Red Wine Tannat on Oxidative Stress Induced by Glucose and Fructose in Erythrocytes in Vitro. Pazzini CEF, Colpo AC, Poetini MR, Pires CF, de Camargo VB, Mendez ASL, Azevedo ML, Soares JCM, Folmer V.. Int J Med Sci 2015; 12(6):478-486. doi:10.7150/ijms.10529. Available from http://www.medsci.org/v12p0478.htm

Neuropharmacological effects of Nigerian honey in mice.
Akanmu MA1, Olowookere TA, Atunwa SA, Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(3):230-49. Epub 2011 Apr 2. LINK

Phenolic Acid Composition, Antiatherogenic and Anticancer Potential of Honeys Derived from Various Regions in Greece. Eliana Spilioti,1 Mari Jaakkola,2 Tiina Tolonen, PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e94860.  doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0094860 LINK

Advertisements

Author: Lori Hogenkamp

Lori's passion is for food, the brain, science and stress shifting perspectives .

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s