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.
Apparently 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.).
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.