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Buckwheat honey's digestive benefits

Recent research has found that Buckwheat honey’s particular content of special compounds (phenolics) and certain naturally occuring simple sugars (oligosaccharides) provide special digestive benefits. Oligosaccharides nourish beneficial bacteria (prebiotic effect) while phenolic compounds inhibit the growth of bad gut bacteria. 

Phenols are secondary metabolites produced by plants for protection against stress or disease, and many of them have been found to be beneficial to human health. Phenol-rich foods have been found to have protective effects against chronic diseases such as heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer. Buckwheat honey contains twelve different kinds of phenolics, with p-coumaric acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid and gallic acid being some of the primary ones.

Many of these phenolics are also noted for their antimicrobial activity and this suggests that Buckwheat honey’s phenolic content may be responsible for inhibiting the growth of pathogenic gut bacteria. Studies have also shown that dietary polyphenols (such as those in green tea, persimmon and anthocyanins) may support good gut bacteria, so some phenolics may have also had a prebiotic effect.

Fructose was the main carbohydrate in Buckwheat honey, followed by glucose and various oligosaccharides (about 10 per cent). Oligosaccharides are not absorbed in the upper intestines and are able to reach the lower gut, where they can impact the intestinal microbiota. The study found that Buckwheat honey had a stronger prebiotic effect on Bifidobacteria (beneficial gut bacteria) than fructooligosaccharides (a form of natural oligosaccharide) alone, possibly due to a synergistic impact with phenolic compounds. Overall, phenolics had a much greater impact than oligosaccharides on the intestinal bacteria.

The study adds to our knowledge of the health benefits of Buckwheat honey. Other research has identified Buckwheat honey’s phenolic content as the source of its antioxidant and antibacterial activity. This new study highlights another health benefit of Buckwheat honey’s phenolics through their impact on gut bacteria. 

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Jiang, L., M. Xie, G. Chen, J. Qiao, H. Zhang, and X. Zeng. "Phenolics and Carbohydrates in Buckwheat Honey Regulate the Human Intestinal Microbiota." Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM 2020 (2020): 6432942 (Link)