If you have type 2 diabetes, you may wonder about royal jelly and whether it can help you manage your disease. Royal jelly is a substance secreted by worker honeybees and fed to the queen bee to help her develop. It contains many nutrients, including protein, sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals, and can be harvested from honeycomb cells for human use. Some people believe that royal jelly may have a number of health benefits, including diabetes control, and there is particular interest about its effects on blood sugar, body weight and foot ulcers. However, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is not enough evidence to suggest that royal jelly can help prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.
Royal jelly has been touted as a supplement that can help people with type 2 diabetes control their disease, but the jury is still out. For example, taking a royal jelly supplement appears to have no immediate effect on blood sugar. On the other hand, longer-term supplementation has been linked to some improvement of several diabetes indicators, including glycosylated hemoglobin and insulin levels, although results among studies are not consistent. These conflicting findings suggest that more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
It is well known that weight loss is an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes. Losing even 10 or 15 pounds can make a big difference. A study of 50 females with type 2 diabetes published in the December 2012 issue of "Health Promotion Research" found that royal jelly supplementation was associated with a lower mean body weight and a decreased carbohydrate and total calorie intake. Additional research is necessary to confirm these findings and, potentially, to determine an optimal dosage and establish effectiveness in males with diabetes.
According to research published in the January 2005 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," as many as 1 in every 4 people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer. Without appropriate care, foot ulcers can impact mobility and lead to infection and even amputation. A very small study published in the July 2011 issue of the "Journal of Research in Medical Sciences" reported that a combination of royal jelly ointment and standard care -- keeping off the foot, removing dead skin, applying medication and bandages, and controlling blood sugar -- healed 7 of 8 ulcers on 6 patients within 3 months. While these results sound promising, a larger clinical trial is necessary to confirm that standard care plus the ointment is more effective than standard care alone.
Warnings and Precautions
When considering use of a dietary supplement like royal jelly, be sure to check with your doctor first. Even though it may seem like a safe and "natural" treatment option, royal jelly has been associated with allergies, especially in those allergic to pollen, bee stings and honey. Reactions can range from skin irritations to full-blown asthma attacks and even anaphylaxis, which includes symptoms like throat tightness, difficulty breathing or a swollen tongue, and requires immediate emergency care.