Is this goodbye to manuka honey?
The health benefits of Irish heather honey are comparable to those of manuka honey, a new study claims.
Manuka honey - which can cost around £40 for a small jar - has been lauded in recent years for its medicinal nature: it has high antioxidant, antibacterial, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
However new research suggests that the far cheaper Irish honey could provide just as great a health boost.
In the study, conducted by Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin, researchers concluded that Irish honey contains just as many powerful antioxidants (called phenolic compounds) as its pricier counterpart.
The antioxidants are beneficial to our health because they help prevent damage occurring in the body’s cells, and it's also been found to be effective in fighting infection and promoting healing.
The conclusions were drawn after researchers were donated 131 honey samples from beekeepers across Ireland. The samples were a mix of multi-floral honeys (some urban, some from rural locations), ivy honeys, oilseed rape honeys and three were heather honeys.
They found that Irish heather honey had the highest total phenolic content (and thus was highest in antioxidants) of all the honeys tested - and even higher than manuka honey.
In addition, the researchers found that multi-floral honeys produced by urban bees with access to a wide range of flowers contained more antioxidants than honey produced by rural bees.
A possible explanation for this difference is that there is greater flower diversity and abundance surrounding hives in urban areas.
Professor Jane Stout of Trinity College Dublin explains: “Finding a difference in honey composition between urban and rural hives probably reflects the difference in flower availability in urban and rural areas in Ireland.”
The researchers also concluded that darker honeys tended to be higher in antioxidants than paler ones, however the darkest honey tested, ivy honey, still had a lower total phenolic content than heather and manuka honeys.
“Being able to quantify that Irish honeys have a high phenolic content, and particularly that the content in Irish heather honey is comparable to manuka honey, is very exciting for us,” says Dr Blánaid White of Dublin City University.
“Our research shows that Irish honey is a high-quality product and something that we should really value. Interest in beekeeping and honey production is growing in Ireland, and we are delighted to be able to support it.”
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