Depicted by Stone Age painting, the use of honey by humans is traced back to around 8000 years ago. Honey is a renowned natural palatable sweetener that extensively used in cooking and baking. However, honey is also used in the field of medicine since ancient times due to its health-enhancing and medicinal properties. These properties are owing to the nutrients present in the honey. One more beneficial effect of honey is its role in preventing various types of cancer.
Let's explore these in detail!
What is honey?
According to the EU, "honey is sweet formulation produced by Apis mellifera bees from the plants’ nectar and excretions of plant-sucking insects living on the plant". The bees collect the nectar, transform it by mixing it with their particular substance, dehydrate the mixture and store in honeycombs for ripening and maturation.
Chemical composition of honey
Natural honey enriched with more than 200 substances, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, phytochemicals, and sugar. The major content of honey is sugar and water. Honey comprises 4 to 5% fructooligosaccharides, which act as potent probiotic agents. In vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin B complex are present in abundant quantity. In minerals, potassium is present in the abundant quantities followed by sodium, magnesium, calcium, and sulphur. Trace amounts of zinc and iron are also found in honey.
Taking about phytochemicals, honey contains flavonoid and phenolic compounds. These both phytochemicals are the potential reason behind the anticancer activity of honey.
Honey: A natural cancer vaccine
For ages, honey has been used to address problems of gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, and cardiovascular system.
Today, honey found to exhibit significant bactericidal activity against bacteria like Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Helicobacter pylori. Other than this, honey tends to counteract reactive oxygen species induced oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and enhances cardiovascular protection. Other than these honey also proven to be beneficial for obesity and immunity.
However, there is one more problem, where the benefits of honey are immense. This is cancer or tumour. Due to the composition of honey, it is very beneficial against cancerous cells.
Let's explore what are these benefits and to what extent honey is essential for cancer patients.
Mechanism of honey in cancer prevention
1) Induces apoptosis
Apoptosis is a process involved in programmed cell death. Honey by depolarizing the mitochondrial membrane initiates the apoptosis of various cancer cell lines. Along with this, honey also helps in down regulating anti-apoptotic protein. All together significantly helps to control cancer.
2) Cell cycle arrest
Cell cycle (G1, G2, M, and S phases) is the major essential thing for the growth of a cell. The flavonoids and phenolics both act upon the G1/G0 stage and inhibits the cell cycles of various cancer cell lines, for instance, colon, glioma, and lung cancer.
3) Immunomodulatory effect
This effect of honey plays a major role in cancer prevention. The reason behind the substantial immunomodulatory effect is the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which produced upon the digestion of honey.
4) Activates mitochondrial pathway
Mitochondrial pathway activation is an essential mechanism for cell death. The stimulation of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) outflows specific proteins in the cytosol, which activates mediators whichshow potent anticancer properties.
5) Regulates oxidative stress
It is said that oxidative stress plays a significant role in the propagation of cancer cell lines like breast, lung, colorectal and gastric cancers. Being a significant antioxidant, honey mitigates the reactive oxygen species that cause oxidative stress. In this way, honey can influence the proliferation and progression of tumours.
"Every day 1.2 g/kg body weight intake of honey can raise the antioxidant levels in body"
Embedded with the above-mentioned potent anticancer properties, i.e. apoptosis, anti-mutagenic, anti-proliferative, free radical scavenging, and immunomodulatory, honey can be an efficacious food for cancer patients.
Just like honey, Lycopene - is also cancer fighting food component. Know about it.