Side Effects of Eating Too Much Honey

Honey has been used by humans for thousands of years as a food and for medicinal reasons. Honey has been recognized for its positive benefits as a food in scientific research since 1892. While it is considered generally safe for healthy adults, just like any other food, there are concerns if you eat too much, in addition to concerns for infants and those with weakened immune systems.

Honey dipper over bowl of cereal. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Limitations

Honey has the same relative sweetness and chemical backbone as table sugar, so the recommended serving size of honey is the same as it is for table sugar. One tablespoon is considered a serving and it is not recommended that you exceed 10 tbsp. in the course of one day. This 10 tbsp. recommendation is for all added sugars, including those in packaged foods.

Short-Term Effects

Going over the 10 tbsp. daily upper limit causes gastric problems such as stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea. Because of honey's fructose content, eating too much also might interfere with your small intestines' ability to absorb nutrients. This can contribute to further abdominal discomfort until the honey is out of your system.

Long-Term Effects

Consistently over-consuming honey can have long-term negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Nutrient absorption could become a permanent problem, even when there is not honey in the system. Honey also is slightly acidic and prolonged exposure to acidic foods can erode tooth enamel and the linings of your esophagus, stomach and intestines, which can lead to acid reflux disease. Excess honey consumption, as with any excess sugar consumption, might result in insulin insensitivity.

Infants

Any honey is too much for an infant. Some honey contains botulism spores, which the immature digestive system of an infant cannot handle, leading to botulism poisoning. The signs of botulism are constipation, weakness, listlessness and decreased appetite. Uncontrolled botulism causes muscle paralysis and eventually death. Because of this risk, pediatricians recommend no honey for children under 12 months or for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Botulism can be treated if detected early and usually leads to a full recovery.

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