Could eucalyptus honey cure an unhealthy gut?


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Gut health is a hot topic right now and honey has joined the conversation. We spoke with AgriFutures™ Honey Bee & Pollination Program researcher, Dr Nural Cokcetin from the University of Technology Sydney, about her project that aims to increase the value of Australian honey as a health food.

Why is this research project important?

Every day there is an increased awareness and understanding of the importance of the trillions of microbes living in our gut, and how they affect the normal functioning of our body, nutrition and health. We now recognise that it’s important to have balance of beneficial and potentially harmful types of microbes living in harmony, and that a diverse gut population is key to good health.

Honey has been a staple food in the human diet for thousands of years, and there is some evidence showing the benefits of honey on our gut health. We aim to show definitively whether eating honey can improve our microbiome, and whether this benefit can be extended to patients with an already-compromised gut balance. This research has the potential to help reduce the prevalence and socioeconomic burdens of the many chronic conditions associated with a disrupted gut microbiome, such as digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health issues.

How will this research benefit the honey bee and pollination industry?

There is high demand worldwide for honeys with scientifically proven medicinal properties – including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and prebiotic. Consumers are willing to pay more for these honeys with proven health benefits, so there is enormous potential for the Australian honey industry to capitalise on this growing market.

Gut health is a hot topic – what can consumers expect as a result of this research?

We know that our gut microbes help us to digest our food, make essential vitamins, remove toxins and metabolise drugs. They also influence our hormones and regulate our immune system. By understanding how certain foods like honey can affect our microbiome, we can use this not only to promote a healthy gut but potentially to prevent or treat chronic diseases.

Tell me about your research highlights with the AgriFutures™ Honey Bee and Pollination Program?

The thing I value most about the AgriFutures™ Honey Bee & Pollination Program is that I can see my research is valued by the beekeeping industry. The program is designed in a way where research projects help to improve the industry. Researchers like myself get to liaise directly with the beekeeping bodies to ensure not only that our research findings are useful and disseminated widely among the industry, but that the researchers are also aware of the challenges and issues faced by the industry.

You are an active science communicator, what advice would you give other researchers who are looking to share research highlights and gain traction with the general public?

  1. Identify and highlight the impact of your work – what are the benefits your research can offer society? Are you researching something that up until now was completely unknown? How can the audience relate to your work, how does it affect their lives?
  2. Try to give your audience a new bit of information, explain some kind of unknown that they get excited about and can’t wait to share with their friends.
  3. Practice communicating with different audiences about your research to your colleagues in the same field, other scientists outside of your field, family, friends, school kids, neighbours.

Learn more about the AgriFutures™ Honey Bee & Pollination Program and Dr Cokcetin’s project increasing the value of Australian honey as a health food.

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