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Honey & Insulin Resistance

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Honey & Insulin Resistance
Honey may be a better option than table sugar. Photo Credit: vkuslandia/iStock/Getty Images

As obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise, research into the role of insulin resistance and how different types of sugar influence blood glucose balance is gaining prominence. Emerging research suggest probiotics -- friendly bacteria -- and certain sugars, such as those found in honey, may play a beneficial role in combating insulin resistance and diabetes.

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Understanding Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a vital hormone that signals your cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream after a meal, making it crucial to blood sugar balance. Insulin resistance occurs when your cells become less responsive to the hormone. This causes glucose levels to rise, which over time can lead to prediabetes and eventually Type 2 diabetes. Scientists haven't pinned down the exact cause, but they believe being overweight and sedentary are major contributors to insulin resistance.

Probiotics and Insulin Resistance

Probiotics are microorganisms most commonly associated with intestinal health. However, data suggests the role of these beneficial bacteria extends beyond the gut. The "International Journal of Biological Sciences" published a review of current evidence of the relationship between gut microbiota and insulin resistance in its August 2012 issue. The microbiota in your gut can influence how other organs, such as your liver and brain, function. What's more, an imbalance in the amount and type of gut microbiota is linked to the development of insulin resistance and obesity, according to the review.

Influence of Honey on Probiotics

Evidence shows honey significantly increases or enhances the growth of multiple beneficial gut bacteria strains, according to the "IJBS" review. Honey contains a variety of oligosaccharides, which are a group of sugars that have gained attention for their health benefits. Some of the oligosaccharides in honey appear to act as prebiotics -- nondigestible material that promotes the growth of friendly gut bacteria. This may explain why honey promotes probiotic growth.

Honey Improves Insulin Resistance

Clinical data from humans and animals reveals honey supplementation reduces or improves insulin resistance, according to the "IJBS" review. Honey lowers blood sugar also, according to a commentary in the "Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders" published in January 2014. The commentary mentions an animal study showing that honey, when combined with diabetes drugs, results in significantly lower blood sugar than when taking the drugs alone. The takeaway is that even though honey is rich in sugar, it appears to contain components that benefit glucose control. There is still more research needed, and you should not supplement honey to treat insulin resistance or stop taking diabetes medication on the basis of these preliminary findings.

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