PERHAPS Winnie the Pooh knows something we don’t. Honey could soon be marketed as a way to combat the effects of ageing.
Lynne Chepulis and Nicola Starkey of the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, raised rats on diets containing 10 per cent honey, 8 per cent sucrose, or no sugar at all for 12 months. The rats were two months old at the start of the trial, and were assessed every three months using tests designed to measure anxiety and spatial memory.
Honey-fed rats spent almost twice as much time in the open sections of an assessment maze than sucrose-fed rats, suggesting they were less anxious. They were also were more likely to enter novel sections of a Y-shaped maze, suggesting they knew where they had been previously and had better spatial memory.
"Diets sweetened with honey may be beneficial in decreasing anxiety and improving memory during ageing," says Starkey, whose work was funded by Fonterra, a dairy company interested in sweetening yoghurt with honey.
She suggests the findings may be due to the antioxidant properties of honey, which have previously been demonstrated in humans. The results were presented at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour meeting at Newcastle University, UK, last week.