Though pure and nutritious, are there raw honey dangers?
While the National Honey Board states that there is no official definition of “raw honey,” it says that honey is generally considered raw when it hasn’t been heated or strained. Although a study by the NHB found that the levels of nutrients in raw and processed honey are about the same, heating honey does reduce its pollen content — and we know that bee pollen has many powerful health benefits.
So we know that honey in general is good for us, but are there dangers to consuming raw honey from the farmers’ market as opposed to using the little golden bear from the grocery store? Supermarket honey is processed in commercial factories to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria. This also means, however, that store-bought honey no longer contains the beneficial bacteria found in raw honey.
Americans are big consumers of honey. They ingest more than 400 million pounds of the golden nectar each year, with half going into the production of processed foods. However, only 48 percent of that honey is made in the U.S. Much of it is brought in from China but passed off as American-made. So not only is grocery store honey heated and processed, it’s often adulterated with yucky things like antibiotics, lactate, and rice syrup. Because of this, it is often referred to as “funny honey.”
Raw Honey Dangers For Infants: Don’t Do It
Even though honey has a number of incredible medicinal qualities, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Association of Pediatrics, and the National Honey Board recommend against feeding any kind of honey to infants below the age of one. This is because raw honey may contain botulinum toxin spores. Botulism can lead to paralysis and even death.
In fact, experts recommend that babies and those with an immunodeficiency avoid both raw and processed honey. The bottom line? Do not feed honey to infants.
No Raw Honey Dangers With Pregnancy
Women who are pregnant can eat raw honey without worry for the safety of their unborn children. According to an article published in the journal Canadian Family Physician, the adult gastrointestinal system has bacteria that protect against botulism; and because of the molecular weight of the botulism toxin, it is unlikely to cross the placenta. Hence, a pregnant woman cannot pass along botulism to her fetus.
Nursing mothers can also consume raw honey without risk to their infants. However, the authors of the article caution against eating honey in any form for people who have a gastrointestinal abnormality, or who have recently had antibiotic treatments.
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Raw Honey, Immuno-Deficient Adults, and Autoimmune Disorders
According to BreastCancer.org, dietitians advise people who are immuno-deficient or immuno-compromised — for example, because of chemotherapy treatments or advanced AIDS — to avoid eating unpasteurized dairy and raw honey. This recommendation is given because such treatments and conditions weaken the body’s ability to fight off disease.
However, raw honey is actually often recommended to people with autoimmune disorders, a chronic condition in which the immune system is in overdrive and attacks the body’s own tissues. Common autoimmune disorders include type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.
In The Autoimmune Epidemic, Donna Jackson Nakazawa includes raw honey on a short list of foods that she and many nutritionists “believe may help to quiet down autoimmune activity.”
Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He writes on a variety of subjects, including science and health, for Yahoo, Examiner.com, and other venues. He is the author of Gabriella’s War and the Children of Apollo trilogy.
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