Anti-obesity honey: Malaysian professor’s ‘paradoxical’ method to tackle body fat

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Honey contains mainly simple sugar which can be absorbed by the body easily, says a Malaysian professor who has expertise in this area. ©Getty Images
Honey contains mainly simple sugar which can be absorbed by the body easily, says a Malaysian professor who has expertise in this area. ©Getty Images

Related tags Malaysia Honey Obesity

The bioactives from honey could help tackle obesity by curbing appetite and Malaysian researchers are now making a weight controlling dietary supplement on the back of their studies.

Leading the research is associate professor Wan Iryani Wan Ismail from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

Comparing honey produced in different regions, she found out that the honey produced in Malaysia contains bioactives not present in other types of honey, such as Manuka honey and those from the Middle East.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​she said that these bioactives induce fullness and control appetite, in turn, control weight gain.

“Our pilot human study shows that honey can control our hormone-related appetite ghrelin.

She added that honey, with its high content of simple sugar, provides instant energy for the body.  

“Honey gives you instant energy so that you can feel full and also regulate the amount of ghrelin. Honey contains antioxidants and can reduce inflammation in the body…There are many mechanisms involved.”

She is now developing prototypes containing the honey bioactives in the form of capsule and liquid.

These prototypes are made based on a specific formulation and contained a specific amount of key bioactives so as to effectively control excessive weight gain.

The formulation is now pending patent.

Misunderstood honey

With a high sugar content, honey seemed like a ‘paradoxical’ solution for tackling obesity for many people.

“There are so many people who asked me why honey (for tackling obesity). They say since sugar is the main component in honey, then can it overcome diseases such as obesity?

“What a lot of people do not know is that honey contains close to 200 bioactive compounds and almost 80% of the sugar in honey is a simple sugar that can be absorbed easily to provide energy, instead of being converted into fats,” ​said professor Wan.

On the other hand, other sugary ingredients such as sweeteners contain more complex sugars. These are less easily broken down into simple sugar by the body and could even be converted into fats.

With a wide range of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and water, she added that these produce “a synergistic effect” ​to benefit the body.

Pre-clinical studies results

A series of studies conducted by professor Wan showed that obese rats fed with Gelam honey sourced from Terengganu, north of Malaysia, showed a “significant reduction” ​in excess weight gain and adiposity index.

As compared to rats fed with only the high-fat diet, these rats fed with Gelam and Acacia honey also had lower levels of plasma glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

Following the preclinical studies, she plans to conduct a human clinical trial targeting obese adults who are not on medication and are not suffering from diabetes early next year.

Market interest

Professor Wan’s research on honey has attracted interest from about five Malaysia-based honey and/or dietary supplements producers.

She said that she would need to look at the terms of agreement before coming to a decision on the partner to work with.

“We do the research, we definitely need someone to help us commercialise and market the product.”

Fake Vs real

One of the “tricks” in inducing weight loss, according to professor Wan, is to choose the right honey.

In this case, the authenticity of honey is crucial, as adulterated honey can stimulate food intake, leading to weight gain instead.

“The bad honey can stimulate food intake, excessive weight gain and finally, obesity. In contrast, the natural honey produces totally opposite results,” ​she said.

She added that fake honey tended to be transparent with a caramelised taste, while authentic honey tended to look cloudy due to the large amounts of minerals present.

Source: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2017

Four-Week Consumption of Malaysian Honey Reduces Excess Weight Gain and Improves Obesity-Related Parameters in High Fat Diet Induced Obese Rats

Authors: Suhana Samat, et al

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