Honey and diabetes – the ultimate pub discussion revealed

Sunday 18th November 2012

  • Why there is a danger taking the simple answer option 
  • Honey and diabetes: discover the interesting facts
  • A hot, tasty and cheap diabetic recipe that is a real family favourite

Can diabetics safely include honey in their diet?

That was the question in the snug the other night whilst I was holding forth on the joys of my fresh Manuka.

The problem was that I didn’t really know how to answer it.

You see I know that honey contains relatively high levels of sugars (in many forms) and these need to be carefully managed in the diabetic diet.

So it would seem that the short answer to the question would have to be no … but the short answer is a little misleading.

A recently published study suggests that honey could be used as way to control diabetes – actually working to reduce blood sugar levels.

I have attached a link to the full study at the end of this letter for those who want to read more about this startling bit of information. I can understand that this flies very much in the face of what common convention would have us believe, but this seems a very authoritative paper which has been published in a respected peer reviewed journal.

Reading the scientific details aren’t high on everyone’s Sunday job list, so here are the highlights:

1) Honey is rich in many types of sugars, but is predominantly composed of fruit sugar (fructose) and glucose.

High levels of glucose being ingested and taken up into the blood place the diabetic sufferer at risk, however the presence of the fructose prevents the absorption of glucose from the gut.

This results in a lowering of blood sugar level, rather than an increase.

Honey supports a healthy balance in gut micro-organisms.

The study states that an imbalance in the flora of the gut predisposes the onset of insulin resistance which typifies diabetes mellitus (Type 2 diabetes, or the late onset form which is most common).

2) Honey-derived fructose stimulates the liver to turn more glucose into glycogen – a safe storage version - which removes glucose from the blood.

3) Honey stimulates the cells in the pancreas to produce more insulin, and reduces the effects of insulin resistance in other cells in the body.

4) Honey has been shown to combine glucose lowering, lipid lowering, liver function regulation, kidney function enhancement and pancreatic support which makes it similar in action to commonly prescribed antidiabetic drugs like Metformin.

Naturally, I chose not to give this much detail to my co-conspirators in the Nags Head, however I hope that you – a more informed and knowledgeable audience – recognise the significance of this information.

I think it is fair to say that diabetes affects different people in differing ways, so even with all of this scientific backup there is no one solution for everyone.

But it does make me think that there is much more to the management of diabetes than we are led to believe, especially for those who do have a sweet tooth.

I realise that there are other natural sweeteners such as Agave nectar and Stevia which can be used in the diabetic diet, but I can’t help thinking a little drop of honey would also help make food and drink a little more palatable from time to time.

So let’s hear it for honey – the sweet elixir!

On Friday I was somewhat miffed by what I’m allowed and not allowed to tell you about honey and health.

I guess today’s letter continues to put me up against the powers that be, but I can’t help it when I discover things of interest and also something worth reporting for the assistance of an estimated 285 million people worldwide.

What is clear is that honey is no wonder product, but the more it becomes the subject of proper scientific scrutiny the more we begin to learn about its potential.

Lara accuses me of becoming a honey nut, and she does have a point.

Since I first discovered the delights of Manuka honey in 2005 it has become an increasingly important feature of our household diet and medicine cabinet.

Based upon the speed that our honey sells I know many of you feel the same, but I do get a lot of people mailing me to say they wished they could enjoy our honey, but don’t feel able to because they are diabetic.

Please don’t think that I’m saying that its time to forget such caution over your diet and dive into a big dollop of honey on your toast.

Far from it, I recognise that diabetes is a serious and life long condition that needs to be taken very seriously.

What I have found interesting is that several studies such as the one I have talked about honey being a preferable alternative sweetener when used in food as it lowers the rate that glucose is taken up into the blood.

One to try

Looking back over the past few months I realised that I haven’t given you any recipes, so this seems like the ideal time to share a Collins family favourite which includes our fabulous honey – especially as this is suitable for diabetics.

Honey Glazed Baked Spare Ribs (Serves 2)

6 Lean pork spare ribs

1tbsp Manuka honey

1 tbsp Lemon Juice

1tbsp Dried thyme

1 tsp Minced garlic

1 tsp Minced fresh ginger

1tsp Dijon mustard

1 Medium onion (roughly chopped)


1. Mix together all of the ingredients except the pork and onion to make a paste.

2. Rub the pork with the mix and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours.

3. Place the ribs along with any remaining marinade in a roasting tin and scatter over the onion.

4. Roast in a pre-heated oven (190C/375F/Gas Mark 5) for 2 hours covered in foil for the first 1˝ hours, then uncovered for the final 30 minutes to caramelise the ribs and onion for the perfect taste.

5. Serve with brown rice and steamed green cabbage.

In the cold dark winter nights winter we enjoy this as a warming, filling, seasonal and downright delicious meal, plus it costs very little to feed a growing family even when we increase the quantities to feed five of us.


Yours, as always

Study Link;
[Honey – A Novel Antidiabetic Agent; Erejuwa et. al. (2012). Int J Biol Sci. 2012; 8(6): 913–934.] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399220/





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