8 Side Effects of Honey You Must Be Aware Of

Updated on August 20th, 2020
honey side effects

Honey offers numerous health benefits. It contains antioxidants and certain other essential minerals. It is projected as a healthy alternative to processed sugar.But lately, there have been mixed reactions about honey.

While supporters consider it to be nutritious, skeptics feel otherwise. Honey may cause infant botulism, allergies, weight gain, and elevate blood sugar levels.

What Are The Side Effects Of Honey?

1. May Lead To Weight Gain

One tablespoon (21 grams) of honey contains 64 calories. It is relatively high in calories. Though this may not look like a lot, many such tablespoons daily for prolonged periods can add up. This is particularly true if one is not making other lifestyle adaptations accordingly.

Honey is a type of added sugar. It is a sugar that is incorporated into other beverages and foods during processing. Regular intake of added sugars has been linked with weight gain. Reduced consumption of added sugars, in general, was associated with little weight gain) .

According to the WHO, it is essential to keep daily sugar intake below ten percent of the total calories [1].

[Also Read: How to gain weight]

2. May Cause Allergies

Though honey allergies are rare, increased consumption of honey as the main ingredient can put one at risk.People allergic to pollen may be allergic to honey, as well.

Honey allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition. It is characterized by facial swelling, skin rashes, vomiting, nausea, and shock.This allergy is known to be caused by propolis, is a substance used by bees while creating honeycombs. Propolis is a type of contact allergen [2].

[Also Read: Best Supplements for Allergies]

3. May Cause Infant Botulism

Infant botulism happens when an infant ingests a bacterial spore that produces a toxin inside the body. This happens due to the presence of C botulinum in honey, which is a bacterial strain.

Experts warn not giving honey to infants less than 12 months old [3]. Though many instances of infant botulism cannot be prevented (as the related bacteria are found in soil and dust), they are not deadly either.

It is only when the bacterial spore secretes a toxin in the infant’s digestive tract that there is an issue. This is more likely to happen with honey. Hence, infants below the age of 12 months must be kept away from any supplements/products containing honey (not even trace amounts).

Infant botulism can result in the disruption of autonomic and motor functions in the infant. The symptoms may include floppiness, constipation, loss of facial expressions, sagging eyelids,  and head control, respiratory failure, and a weak cry.

4. May Elevate Blood Sugar Levels

Though honey could be an excellent alternative to processed sugar, it still has sugar. Research states that diabetes patients must consume honey with a word of caution .

Long-term honey intake can increase hemoglobin A1C (hemoglobin that is bound to glucose) in the blood. High levels of hemoglobin A1C can mean greater chances of diabetes .

Honey may have effects similar to high-fructose corn syrup (a harmful additive) and processed sugar. In research, all three ingredients elevated triglyceride levels and impaired glucose response in a similar fashion . However, some clinical trials also state the anti-diabetic properties of honey .

Honey may not be harmful to people with diabetes. It may have specific beneficial properties also. But if you are coping with diabetes complications, it is recommended to speak to your physician before adding it to your diet.

[Also Read: Symptoms of High Blood Sugar]

5. May Cause Diarrhea

Honey may cause diarrhea. It contains fructose over glucose. This can lead to an incomplete fructose absorption in your body, possibly causing diarrhea.

6. May Cause Food Poisoning

Honey inherently contains microbes. These include yeast, bacteria, and molds, which come from air, dust, pollen, and dirt. But since honey has antimicrobial effects, these microbes are generally not a cause for worry.

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However, there is a likelihood that honey might lead to secondary contamination. This may come from processing by humans, wind, containers, and dust particles . Though this is rare, it is essential to exercise caution. If you have a food poisoning history, skip honey or purchase it only from an authentic dealer.

7. May Promote Tooth Decay

Honey is sticky and contains sugar . This can lead to tooth decay in the long term if one doesn’t rinse their mouth thoroughly after taking honey.Honey can cause tooth decay in kids, especially if they are using pacifiers dipped in honey . The sugar in honey can offer food to oral bacteria, aggravating their growth.

Some believe that natural sugars like honey can have similar cavity-producing effects as table sugar. However, the evidence is scarce.

[Also Read: Natural Remedies for Tooth Decay]

8. May Cause Bleeding

Honey may have an inhibitory effect on blood coagulation. While it is unclear if this can lead to bleeding, there is a likelihood. If you have any bleeding problems, please check with your physician before taking honey.

Can you get sick from taking honey?

Honey may contain natural toxins. Raw honey may contain spores of the  Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The symptoms of poisoning due to honey intake depend on the levels and types of toxins. If you experience adverse effects, such as vomiting and nausea, contact your physician immediately.

Can honey cause stomach gas?

There is less evidence in this aspect. But popular evidence states it can cause gas. Some believe the fructose in honey may not be absorbed well in the gut and may end up getting fermented to cause bloating and gas.

[Also Read: Home Remedies to Relieve Gas and Reduce Bloating]

Bottom Line

Honey is a beneficial ingredient with essential properties. But excess consumption might lead to issues due to its fructose content.

Honey can cause allergies, weight gain, and also spike blood sugar levels. If you have any specific medical issues, consult your physician before consuming honey.

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