While honey may increase insulin levels and lower blood sugar levels, more research is necessary to determine whether it benefits people with diabetes.

A person’s glucose, or blood sugar, level refers to how much sugar is in their bloodstream. Sugar is the body’s primary source of energy.

The pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone, to keep blood sugar at safe levels. In a person with diabetes, the body either cannot use insulin correctly or cannot produce enough.

Some animal studies and small studies with humans suggest that, in moderation, it may be useful for those living with diabetes. But scientists need to conduct more long-term, rigorous studies on humans.

Learn more about the effects of honey on type 2 diabetes here.

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Honey may be a healthful substitute for refined sugars. However, people should use it in moderation. It, too, can cause blood sugar levels to spike, especially when a person uses honey in addition to, rather than instead of, another form of sugar.

People with diabetes should consume sweeteners as infrequently as possible because frequent blood sugar spikes can cause diabetes to progress more rapidly.

Some manufacturers produce honey that is not pure and may contain added sugars or syrups.

It is also important to note that raw honey can contain a toxin that may cause botulism or otherwise be dangerous for infants younger than 1 year old.

While honey provides nutrients, other foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are better sources of these. They also provide more fiber and water, minimizing any hike in blood sugar levels.

Click here to find out more about which sweeteners are suitable for people with diabetes.

Raw honey starts as flower nectar. After bees collect the nectar, it naturally breaks down into simple sugars, which bees store in honeycombs.

The honeycombs cause the water to evaporate, creating a thick, sweet liquid. This is honey.

Honey, like other types of sugar, is a dense source of carbohydrates. Most of these carbs are in the form of glucose and fructose, which are simple sugars.

Unlike refined white sugar, honey also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Processed vs. raw honey

Most of the honey available today is processed, meaning the manufacturer heats and filters it. This strips away some of the honey’s nutritional value and potential health benefits.

However, raw honey retains these properties. Raw, local honey may, for example, help with seasonal allergies.

Doctors are not likely to recommend switching to honey as a person’s only diabetes management tactic. It will not replace medications or healthful lifestyle practices.

Infants younger than 1 year should not eat raw honey. Doing so can put them at risk of botulism, a kind of food poisoning that may be life threatening.

Raw honey, much like white sugar, is a sweetener that contains carbohydrates and calories.

A tablespoon of honey, weighing about 21 grams (g), has about 64 calories, while 21 g of granulated white sugar contains 80 calories.

This amount of honey also contains:

It also contains some B vitamins.

Sugar contains almost no other nutrients.

Some animal research suggests that certain honey sources may contain prebiotics that can influence gut bacteria by increasing the beneficial strains. However, scientists need more human studies.

Several studies have found that eating honey may increase insulin levels and decrease blood sugar levels, although doctors require further research.

Possible hypoglycemic impact

A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 small short-term trials suggests that certain types of honey, especially clover, Robinia, and raw honey, may lower fasting blood sugar slightly. They may also increase the healthy type of cholesterol in the blood.

However, another 2022 meta-analysis found that honey had no effect on blood cholesterol or other lipid levels.

A 2021 systematic review of clinical trials found that a high intake of honey might increase glucose levels and worsen other metabolic parameters in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, the authors of these reviews concluded that further research was necessary to better determine the effect of honey on people with diabetes.

Improved measurements of diabetes

A review of several older animal studies also explored the connection between honey and blood glucose in people with diabetes.

The authors found that honey had the following effects:

  • It decreases fasting serum glucose, which a doctor measures after a person has fasted for at least 8 hours.
  • It increases levels of fasting C-peptide, which helps the pancreas know how much insulin to secrete and plays a crucial role in keeping blood sugar levels stable in a healthy range.
  • It increases 2-hour postprandial C-peptide levels, which indicates the amount of peptide after a person eats.

However, these effects were only present in animal studies, and the findings may not fully reflect the development of type 2 diabetes in humans. Authors of the review concluded that longer-term human studies were necessary to fully assess the role of honey in type 2 diabetes.

Future therapeutic effect

In 2018, a review of studies concluded that honey might be useful for treating type 2 diabetes as it may have a hypoglycemic effect. In other words, it may help lower blood sugar.

However, the researchers caution that confirming these effects and establishing the beneficial dosages will require more studies in humans and long-term investigations.

Effect on long-term blood glucose levels

A 2019 clinical trial investigated honey’s effect on blood sugar levels for 42 people in Iran with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that consuming 50 g of honey daily for 8 weeks increased hemoglobin A1C levels but had no significant effect on insulin levels.

A hemoglobin A1C test indicates the average glucose level in the blood over the previous 2–3 months. A higher hemoglobin A1C indicates poorer diabetes control and increases the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and damage to the blood vessels in the eyes.

The researchers noted that people living with type 2 diabetes should consume honey with caution.

Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties

Other studies have suggested that honey might have additional benefits because it contains antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

A review published in 2017 looked at the potential roles of honey in healing.

The authors noted that, in people with type 2 diabetes, doctors might one day use honey to lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of complications related to diabetes and metabolic disease, and help heal wounds.

However, more long-term, well-controlled human studies on those living with diabetes are necessary.

Carbohydrates break down into sugar during digestion and provide the body with most of its energy.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends that carbohydrates make up 45–65% of a person’s recommended daily caloric intake.

The ideal daily amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and protein for people with diabetes depend on the individual and their metabolic goals.

Determining how many carbs to consume involves many considerations, including:

A person with diabetes should work with a healthcare team to work out the right amount for them.

Fiber and diabetes

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Fiber intake is crucial in managing post-meal blood sugar spikes. Each meal should contain plenty of fiber.

The daily recommended fiber intake is:

  • for females aged 19–30 years: 28 g
  • for females aged 30 years and over: 22–25 g
  • for males aged 19–30 years: 33.6 g
  • for males aged 30 years and over: 28–31 g

Generally, if a person eats three meals a day, each should contain 8.5–11.2 g of fiber to meet daily fiber needs and help manage blood sugar levels.

Most of a person’s carb intake should comprise healthful, unprocessed, high-fiber carbohydrates. These are in whole grains, such as barley, and in wholemeal bread, legumes, peas, whole oats, and whole fruits and vegetables.

Honey may have many health benefits. Compared with other forms of sugar, it can promote higher levels of insulin and lower levels of blood sugar.

However, confirming that it is a safe alternative for people with diabetes requires more research.

It is best to replace other sugars with honey rather than using honey as an additional sweetener. A person should consume it in moderation, and if it causes a significant boost in blood sugar levels, stop using it.

People with diabetes should speak with a doctor before adding more honey to their diet.

A person can discover more resources for living with type 2 diabetes by downloading T2D Healthline. This free app provides access to expert content on type 2 diabetes, as well as peer support through one-on-one conversations and live group discussions. Download the app for iPhone or Android.

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