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Honey Beats Sugar in Appetite Control?

There is a widespread belief that honey, as a ‘natural’ product, has health benefits not found in refined sugar.

Interestingly, it now turns out that the use of honey compared to the use of refined sugar (sucrose) may also have potentially beneficial affects on appetite (or rather satiety) when it comes to helping with weight control.

Thus, a study by Larson-Meyer and colleagues from the University of Wyoming, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, suggests that the use of honey instead of white sugar may ‘protect’ against obesity by affecting appetite.

In a double-blind randomly assigned study, the researchers measured the ‘appetite’ hormones ghrelin, PYY(3-36), and leptin following an isoglucidic 450 kcal honey- or sucrose-containing breakfast in 14 healthy, nonobese women (22 ± 3 y).

Blood samples and hunger ratings were obtained at baseline and every 30 minutes for 240 minutes following the meal. Meal-induced thermogenesis was measured by indirect calorimetry. Ad libitum food intake was evaluated from a free-choice meal following the test meal.

Following the ‘honey’ breakfast, postprandial ghrelin response was significantly delayed while the total PYY response was enhanced.

Furthermore, the plasma glucose response compared with consumption of the sucrose-containing meal was also blunted after the ‘honey’ breakfast.

Unfortunately, however, meal-induced insulin response, hunger ratings, thermogenesis, and subsequent ad libitum food intake were not different between the two meals.

Nevertheless, the authors conclude that alterations in meal-induced responses of ghrelin and PYY(3-36) may translate into an “obesity protective” effect of honey consumption.

Obviously, this may be quite a leap of faith given that it is almost impossible to draw any firm conclusions about weight management from short-term studies, let alone based on the response to a single meal.

Nevertheless, if you do need to sweeten your food and drink but simply abhor artificial sweeteners, honey may well prove to be a sweeter solution.

Montreal, Quebec

Larson-Meyer DE, Willis KS, Willis LM, Austin KJ, Hart AM, Breton AB, & Alexander BM (2010). Effect of Honey versus Sucrose on Appetite, Appetite-Regulating Hormones, and Postmeal Thermogenesis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 29 (5), 482-93 PMID: 21504975


  1. Hmmm … if “meal-induced insulin response, hunger ratings, thermogenesis, and subsequent ad libitum food intake were not different between the two meals,” I’m not sure that there’s anything too exciting about the other findings!

    Is honey a better choice if you must sweeten food or drink? Very likely. But their conclusion sounds a lot like the one in the study suggesting maple syrup is a superfood … that was conveniently funded/sponsored by the maple industry.

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  2. It’s funny you should mention maple syrup, Beth. I love a spoonfull of it on oatmeal for breakfast, along with walnuts and fresh fruit. I was just thinking “My kind of nutrition news! I’ve got dark chocolate, red wine and honey. All I need now is to hear that maple syrup is healthy.” Hey, is molasses healthy too? Well, whether or not it is, less processed sweeteners taste better. Refined sugar is so boring.

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  3. Now if you get raw honey, it is even better, but is protected by bees. A little wax and fiber even better. It is high in galactose, a crystal form. To me it tastes sweeter; must also have more fructose, but that may depend on what the bees are feeding on.

    No sugar is necessary for life. Both honey and sugar helps develop the pallet that helps drive obesity.

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