Prepared Foods May 16, 2005 enewsletter

A new study conducted at Purdue University showed that consuming honey along with supplemental calcium enhanced calcium absorption in rats. In addition, the absorption of calcium was increased as the amount of honey was increased.

The study, led by Dr. Berdine Martin of Purdue University, was presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting.

"Many adults struggle to get the recommended amounts of calcium in their daily diet," said Dr. Katherine Beals, nutrition consultant to the National Honey Board.

According to the recently released Surgeon General's “Bone Health and Osteoporosis” report, "By 2020, half of all American citizens older than 50 will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass if no immediate action is taken by individuals at risk, health care professionals, health systems, and policymakers."

Osteoporosis is often referred to as a "silent" disease because many of those afflicted are completely unaware that they suffer from it. In fact, four times as many men and three times as many women have osteoporosis than report it.

One of the key strategies for reducing the likelihood of developing low bone mass (and subsequent osteoporosis) is to consume the recommended amounts of calcium. It is also important that the calcium consumed be absorbed by the body. Dietary factors that have been shown to enhance the absorption of calcium include vitamin D and the sugars found in honey.

In the Purdue University study, rats were given a "labeled" dose of calcium alone, or with 200mg of honey, 500mg of honey, 800mg of honey, 800mg of a glucose fructose mixture made to resemble honey, 10.75mg of raffinose, or 200mg of raffinose. After two days, the calcium absorption into the hind leg bones of the rats was measured.

Compared to the control group, rats given 800mg and 500mg of honey showed a 33.6% and 25.5% increase in calcium absorption, respectively. These results indicate that honey and its carbohydrate constituents, specifically glucose, fructose and raffinose, may enhance calcium absorption.

"Although this study was done with rats, the preliminary results are very compelling," said Beals. "Of course, we would have to replicate the experiment in a human sample to see if the same holds true for people."

Funding for this study was provided by the National Honey Board.