Unlocking mānuka honey’s secrets

Investigating the properties of mānuka honey are University of Otago masters student Bryn Forrest...
Investigating the properties of mānuka honey are University of Otago masters student Bryn Forrest (left) and assistant research fellow Holly Abbotts-Holmes. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
A new study aims to find a sweeter way to soothe an upset stomach.

The University of Otago study seeks to understand if mānuka honey can help people who experience functional dyspepsia, or chronic indigestion.

Principal investigator Jody Miller said there was anecdotal evidence mānuka honey could be beneficial.

In some cultures, for example in China, people consumed mānuka honey for upper gastrointestinal symptoms.

"Just to try to alleviate it, they feel that it really improves their symptoms."

There had been a few studies in laboratories and on animals that indicated administering mānuka honey could reduce biomarkers of inflammation associated with causing symptoms of indigestion.

"But there have been no studies done on actual human populations to see if it really does work."

This would be the first human trial to see if mānuka honey could help alleviate indigestion symptoms, she said.

The feasibility study is recruiting 75 people with functional dyspepsia, and they will be assigned into one of three groups.

The first group will take two spoonfuls of mānuka honey with a low level of lepteridine, a second group will do the same but with a sample that has a higher level of lepteridine, and a third control group will be given a sample that looks and tastes like mānuka honey but is not.

Lepteridine is found naturally in mānuka honey and is a bioactive compound which may be the active ingredient that helps with indigestion.

"Lepteridine has been shown in preclinical studies to alleviate inflammation biomarkers that have been associated with dyspepsia," Ms Miller said.

The study has funding from the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge and health supplement provider Comvita Limited.