Mānuka Honey is widely popular, healthy and known for its good anti-bacterial activity and MGO, and lesser known for its high levels of bioactive components and strong antioxidant capacity. Both the bioactivity and the anti-oxidant capacity aid in modulating free radical production and thus protecting cell components from their harmful action. Bioactive compounds are extra nutritional constituents occurring naturally in plant foods in small amounts, however in quantities enough to produce bioactive effects. The other relevant health promoting effects of these BIO compounds are anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, neuro protective, cardio protective properties. Polyphenols also play an important role as a prebiotic, increasing the ratio of beneficial bacteria in our gut, which is important for health, weight management, and disease prevention. They also promote brain health and protecting against dementia.
The important Bioactive compounds in Mānuka Honey are Phenolic acids and flavonoids. There are more than 100 flavonoids and phenolic acids present in Mānuka Honey, of which the most important ones are 3-Phenyallactic acid, and gallic acid. New Zealand government has done an extensive research on Mānuka Honey definition, and they included 3-phenylactic acid as one of the main chemical components in Mānuka Honey. Zealandia’s Mānuka Honey contains a high number of phenolic compounds, providing a relevant antioxidant capacity. In fact, Mānuka Honey exhibits the highest value in terms of phenolic content and antioxidant capacity compared to other types of Honey around the World.
Its content in flavonoids and phenolic acids plays a key role on human health, thanks to the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that they exert. Honey possesses antimicrobial capacity and anticancer activity against different types of tumors, acting on different molecular pathways that are involved on cellular proliferation. In addition, an antidiabetic activity has also been highlighted, with the reduction of glucose, fructosamine, and glycosylated hemoglobin serum concentration. Honey exerts also a protective effect in the cardiovascular system, where it mainly prevents the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, in the nervous system, in the respiratory system against asthma and bacterial infections, and in the gastrointestinal system.
A beneficial effect of honey has been shown in athletes, where if a moderate and regular exercise is able to counteract oxidative stress, an intense and prolonged physical activity can lead to an over-production of ROS that is often associated with a higher risk of incurring muscular injuries and also incurring a decrease in sporting performance. The relationship between oxidative stress and sport is very complex, because, while dangerous, a release of free radicals is necessary to stimulate the up-regulation of endogenous antioxidant defenses. In recent years the consumption by athletes of supplements rich in antioxidant compounds has increased, but a natural contribution of these compounds through the diet is more recommended. In this context, several studies have been carried out to explore the effect that honey consumption has in athletes; investigations have been performed both on murine models and on athletes practicing different sports. After seven days, the value of one of the major markers of oxidative stress, MDA, was reduced in plasma by 35.52% in the group of rats that received honey (5 g/kg body weight once a day.
A very important study was carried out by Tartibian and Maleki, who examined the effects of honey in 39 road cyclistswho participated to eight weeks of intensive cycling training. Some fundamental markers of oxidative stress (ROS, MDA) and antioxidant defenses (superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), total antioxidant capacity (TAC)) were examined. In the group that received honey supplementation (70 g), the increase in markers of oxidative stress was much lower than in the placebo, and the levels of antioxidants were significantly higher.