One of TikTok’s more delicious trends may also carry some health benefits — but experts warn that it is should only be consumed in moderation.
The frozen honey trend has users freezing a bottle of honey overnight, turning the thick syrup into a gummy consistency that can be eaten like a candy. The hashtag #frozenhoney has 1.6 billion views on the platform.
Heidi Bates, a registered dietician and director of the University of Alberta Integrated Dietetic Internship says that while honey has some nutritional pluses relative to sugar, it still has a high sugar content and eating too much of it can come with some not-so-great side effects.
“We always want to practice a little bit of moderation,” says Bates. “You can get too much of the good thing…if you’re going to use it, [remember] that it still provides calories and sugars into the body.”
Honey can also have a laxative effect, Bates warns, so eating too much may lead to gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
“If someone was really going to town with [this] trend…[that] can relate to more upset stomach, diarrhea, that type of thing. It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody was really overdoing it that you would have those kinds of side effects happening.”
Freezing honey won’t reduce its health benefits
Unpasteurized honey is rich in phenols and flavonoids, compounds that have strong antioxidant properties. Research on phenol plasma levels after eating honey has shown that the type of phenol found in honey is at least somewhat absorbed by the body, which may increase the body’s ability to protect itself from oxidative stress.
Various studies on the impact of eating honey has also shown promising results in fighting off viruses, reducing glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin serum concentration in diabetics, protecting cardiovascular health, and protecting respiratory health for asthmatics. When applied to the skin, research suggests that honey promotes faster healing in first- and second-degree burns than conventional dressings and may heal infected post-operative wounds more quickly than the application of gauze and antiseptics.
Heating up raw honey — like when adding it to hot tea or coffee — is thought to damage the antioxidants and enzymes, meaning consumers don’t get the same health benefits as when consuming it at room temperature. Freezing honey, however, shouldn’t have a seriously detrimental effect on the health benefits of honey, explains Leonard Foster, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia.
“It’s hard to see how that could decrease the nutritional value or other health benefits of honey,” says Foster. “…Unless you store it for like 30 years or something like that, then maybe the antioxidant properties would go away. But if you’re just freezing it to harden it, it’s not going to decrease the value.”
One study, which looked at the profile of phenolic compounds identified in Brazilian exotic fruits did not find significant differences in the phenols in the fruit versus in the frozen pulp.
Greater risks, rewards in un-pasteurized or raw honey
When honey is harvested from the beehive, it contains yeasts, beeswax, pollen, and other materials that may shorten the honey’s shelf life or that consumers may be averse to. To create as pure products as possible, manufacturers often will use heat pasteurization and filtration to kill off yeasts and other microorganisms to create the liquid gold that we know and love.
Research suggests that the pasteurization process may reduce the antioxidant concentration in honey, as the heat and pressure used to get rid of the yeast also damages phenols, although Foster says that in his lab they haven’t seen significant damage to the beneficial properties of honey after pasteurization.
The micro-filtration process that many honey products undergo has also been shown to filter out many of the beneficial products that honey possesses, like bee pollen, which has also been linked to many desirable health benefits. Bee pollen is also a key indicator that the honey is pure, so filtering it out makes it difficult to tell if the honey is synthetic.
While raw or unpasteurized honey clearly carries more health benefits than pastuerized, it also carries more risks. Chief among these is the potential risk for carrying the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, a form of botulism that can be fatal in young children and immunocompromised adults, although this is rare in Canada.