Honey is a natural sweetener that has been used for thousands of years as a food and medicine. But did you know that honey also has anti-cancer effects?
Honey contains many bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, enzymes, and antioxidants, that can modulate the molecular processes involved in cancer development and progression. According to a review article published in 20141, honey is highly cytotoxic against tumor or cancer cells while it is non-cytotoxic to normal cells. The data indicate that honey can inhibit carcinogenesis by modulating the molecular processes of initiation, promotion, and progression stages.
Some of the mechanisms by which honey exerts its anticancer effects are:
Apoptotic: Honey can induce programmed cell death or apoptosis in cancer cells by activating the intrinsic or extrinsic pathways, which involve the activation of caspases, cytochrome c release, and mitochondrial membrane potential loss.
Antiproliferative: Honey can inhibit the growth and multiplication of cancer cells by interfering with the cell cycle, DNA synthesis, and signal transduction pathways.
Anti-inflammatory: Honey can reduce inflammation, which is a key process in cancer development and progression. Honey can modulate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and interleukin-6 (IL-6), and also inhibit the activity of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which are involved in inflammation and cancer.
Immunomodulatory: Honey can enhance the immune system’s ability to fight against cancer by stimulating the production of antibodies, natural killer cells, macrophages, and lymphocytes.
Estrogenic: Honey can modulate the estrogen receptor signaling pathway, which is implicated in hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers. Honey can act as an estrogen agonist or antagonist depending on the type of cancer cell.
As you can see, honey has multiple mechanisms of action that can help prevent and treat cancer. However, not all honey is created equal. The quality and composition of honey depend on many factors, such as the floral source, geographical origin, processing method, storage condition, and adulteration. Therefore, it is important to choose a natural honey that is pure, unprocessed, and free from contaminants.
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