Can Honey Fight Cancer?

Can honey fight cancer? Most of us are familiar with honey as a sweet treat but few are aware of its natural anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer properties. Is there any research that addresses the difference between how honey and white table sugar (sucrose) are treated by cancer cells? A concerned visitor recently posted this question on Benefits of Honey.

A very valid concern, especially when we have always been told about cancer cell's affinity for sugar. The beneficial effect of any sugar as anticancer agent easily defies skeptics. The idea that sugar is carcinogenic and that it feeds cancer seems to be widespread and cancer patients are often led to believe they must adhere to a "sugar-less" diet.

Our review of cancer and sugar research showed that there has been an increase in the number of studies on the potential role of honey in the prevention and the progression of tumor and cancer.

honey cures cancer poster imageApparently not all sugars are equal. The numerous flavonoids and phenolic compounds identified in honey, including chrysin, p-coumaric acid, gallic acid, ellagic acid, ferulic acid, syringic acid, caffeic acid, are found to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, anti-metastatic properties and have inhibitory effects on tumors and cancers. (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2012, 60, 12304-12311)

According to many studies on treatment of breast and lung cancers, honey is a good chemotherapeutic agent. It is an intelligent food. While it is selectively toxic to tumor or cancer cells, it is non-cytotoxic to normal cells. In current cancer management, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, most anti-cancer drugs lack such selectivity and specificity properties and have many side effects in their use. Thus honey is a potential cancer therapeutic agent to complement conventional cancer treatments (Food Chem. Toxicol. 2011, 49, 871-878, J. Pathol. 2012, 226, 352-364.).

"… effects of honey have been thoroughly investigated in certain cancers such as breast, liver and colorectal cancer cell lines. In contrast, limited but promising data are available for other forms of cancers including prostate, bladder, endometrial, kidney, skin, cervical, oral and bone cancer cells… the various possible mechanisms by which honey may inhibit growth and proliferation of tumors or cancers… include regulation of cell cycle, activation of mitochondrial pathway, induction of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, induction of apoptosis, modulation of oxidative stress, amelioration of inflammation, modulation of insulin signaling and inhibition of angiogenesis."
~ Molecules 2014, 19, 2497-2522

"There is now a sizeable evidence that honey is a natural immune booster, natural anti-inflammatory agent, natural antimicrobial agent, natural cancer "vaccine,"… The positive scientific evidence for anticancer properties of honey is growing. The mechanism on how honey has anticancer effect is an area of great interest. Among the mechanisms suggested are inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and cell-cycle arrest. Honey and cancer has sustainable inverse relationship in the setting of developing nations where resources for cancer prevention and treatment are limited."
~ Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012

So be sugar-aware and not sugar-free in your diet. A total elimination of foods containing sugar such as fruit and honey for cancer patients isn't wise at all as it limits the intake of nutrients that are important for cancer-fighting, overall health and sustenance. Replacing highly refined, processed sugars or artificial sweeteners which are devoid of any nutritional benefit, with real, unprocessed sugar is a more healthful choice.

Related Articles

1. An older article on honey and cancer: Honey is Anti-Cancer!

2. Check out how refined sugars can affect our health in: Sugar Effects.

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