Honey as a Source of Dietary Antioxidants: Structures, Bioavailability and Evidence of Protective Effects Against Human Chronic Diseases
Josè M. Alvarez-Suarez, Francesca Giampieri and Maurizio Battino
Affiliation: Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche Specialistiche ed Odontostomatologiche, Sez. Biochimica, Facolta di Medicina. Universta Politecnica delle Marche, Italy, Via Ranieri 65, 60100 Ancona, Italy.
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 of honey compounds in human. 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
Keywords: Antioxidant capacity, antimicrobial action, bioavailability, cancer, cardiovascular disease, honey, Human Chronic Diseases, inflammation, plasma lipid, lipoprotein resistance.
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