Honey - more than a sweetener, naturally

by Dr. Ron Fessenden, MD, MPH

For centuries honey has enjoyed a positive image as nature’s sweet substance. Biblical references refer to its sweetness. Culinary schools and chefs consider it an alternative to sugar. Grocery stores and health food outlets stock it on the “sweetener” shelves. To most people, honey is simply a sweetener, in a market flooded with sweeteners and sugar substitutes.

However, to include honey in the category of “sweeteners” risks missing a more significant message. To be sure, honey is sweet. But honey is more than just a sweetener. It is a wonderful, natural, historic food containing secrets that have been hidden or ignored for too long in the United States. Soon, honey will be in the cover stories of women’s magazines, culinary publications and health journals across the country, and its secrets will be out.

            Honey is what the marketing industry refers to as a “functional food,” also known as a nutraceutical—a natural food that delivers a health benefit. The past ten years have witnessed an emergence of a major marketing trend focusing on these foods. The impact of these marketing trends on consumption has been impressive for foods such as tea, almonds, brown rice, dark chocolate, tomatoes, dairy products, and eggs.

            The success of these marketing campaigns is due not just to slick advertising, though that plays a big part. Behind the campaigns is solid scientific research uncovering what many natural food enthusiasts (and mothers and grandmothers) have known for decades. Continue reading...