Honey and Diabetes


Diabetes is a fundamental disorder of metabolism, primarily that of carbohydrates. It is due to a deficiency of the pancreas, a gland connected with the alimentary canal which, under the circumstances, does not produce sufficient insulin. It is a weakness or exhaustion of the gland. In diabetes the ingested carbohydrates, sugars and starches cannot be utilized, but are eliminated in the urine. Part of the food turns into sugar and the glutton has to return to Nature his illegitimate gains. The victim must famish in the midst of plenty. It is really a revenge of Nature. Lean people rarely acquire diabetes. In obese subjects the excess sugar and starch which they consume does not sufficiently oxidize, but forms fat which is already a disintegration of the organism.

A word should be said regarding the cause of diabetes. Most medical textbooks carefully avoid even mentioning the subject. Others acknowledge that the cause of diabetes is unknown. The author's personal comprehension is that the abuse of artificial sugar and salt are mainly to be blamed for it by producing an inflammation or sclerosis of the pancreas. The influence of white sugar already has been discussed. With regard to salt, he would set forth that animal diabetes is confined to horses, cattle and dogs. Salt is given to horses (occasionally also sugar) and to cattle, mixed in their fodder, and dogs obtain it in our waste food.

R. Arima of Tokyo, Japan, Director of the Arima Institute, experimented on himself. He had never had any diabetic ailment. In 1934, at the age of fifty-three he purposely consumed an excess of salt with the result that he suffered from excessive urine secretion, followed by diabetes. He repeated the experiment twice with the same result. He thought that diabetes could be easily cured by the limited use of, or total abstinence from salt. Arima quotes a noted authority who made the statement that civilized man is "pickled" in salt. In his opinion even hardening of the arteries and premature senility is caused by salt. A friend of the late John D. Rockefeller related to this author that during a dinner the old gentleman warned him never to use salt because the substance is injurious to health. As Mr. Rockefeller almost reached the class of centenarians his admonition is worthy of consideration.

Vegetarians and herbivorous animals crave salt because they require it. Fruits, vegetables and plants, in general, contain ample other minerals but are insufficient in sodium chloride. Meat eaters can get along without salt. Many teachers of nutrition are against the use of salt. They claim that an excess of it will produce rigidity and inactivity. The brain, heart, arteries, muscles, salivary glands, eyes and sex organs lose their elasticity, become indurated and finally ossified. Lime, which commercial sugars contain, has a similar effect. When the biological chemists will use more commonsense than microscopes they will also establish the fact that refined sugars contribute more to the prevalence of arthritis than has so far been surmised.

It is much beyond the scope of this review to enumerate the ill effects of diabetes. One of the cardinal troubles is lack of glycogen (animal starch) which is normally deposited in the muscles, of course, the heart, the blood and mainly in the liver (the savings bank of glucose), where it is stored and later utilised as the most important energy-producing substance of the organ-ism. Normal blood contains about 0.10% glucose.

If a diabetic organism is unable to oxidise glucose, it will have vital effect also on other processes of metabolism, mainly on the metabolism of fat. The burning of carbohydrates, especially glucose, is indispensable for the burning of fat. Fats burn in the flame of carbohydrates. Imperfect oxidation of fats produces the formation of unoxidised fatty acids, commonly called acetone bodies, which will disturb the acid-base equilibrium of the system and finally will deplete the entire alkali reserve of the body.

The importance of sugar metabolism on the spinal column and brain is evident. The blood of the veins which leaves the brain contains less sugar and more acids than the blood of the arteries which centers upon it. Sugar assimilation has an important function in the chemical activities of brain cells. The successful therapeutic application of insulin in various mental disorders clearly demonstrates this. The lack of sugar assimilation of a diabetic, the accompanying depression, comatose states, even fatal ending, prove the vital importance of sugar metabolism on the activities of the brain cells.

The administration of insulin, a pancreatic hormone, corrects the pathological condition in diabetes and converts the carbohydrates into glycogen, which a diabetic constitution is unable to perform. Insulin is an adjunct in the treatment of diabetes but by no means a cure. The use of insulin is a burdensome procedure. The patient must inject insulin about half an hour before each meal to effectuate this function. Its dosage must first be deter-mined because the units of insulin must correspond with the subsequent meal, with the patient's sugar tolerance, etc. The patient's individual response and also the amount of carbohydrates must be rigorously controlled and frequently modified. It is a tedious performance involving considerable time and expense, besides anxiety, and a careful application of complex chemistry and mathematics.

Any substance which could be utilized in mild diabetic cases to convert carbohydrates, by oral administration, into glycogen would be invaluable and far exceed in usefulness the dominant but otherwise beneficial insulin. The relinquishment of the cumbersome self-administered hypodermic injections alone would be of inestimable service.

Whether diabetics could utilise honey by converting it into glycogen to supply a much-needed source of energy for their depleted systems is an issue worth a thorough and unbiased investigation. There are many indications that there is more than a possibility of using honey for these sufferers.

Honey and refined sugars greatly differ not only in chemical characteristics but also in physiological effects. The circumstance alone that honey contains invert sugars and saves the debilitated alimentary organs the additional labor of inverting commercial sugars, is an important factor and of considerable advantage.

In relationship to diabetes there are also other distinctly heterogeneous features in sugar and honey. If insulin were administered to a diabetic patient before a meal and the insulin units were in excess of the consequently consumed carbohydrates, or there was no food given at all, a severe, often disastrous insulin-shock would supervene. The reason for this occurrence is that the insulin will digest and consume the already scanty sugar reserve of the organism and an undersupply of blood-sugar (subglycemia) is just as dangerous as an oversupply (hyperglycaemia). The only way to correct such a contingency is to administer a sufficient amount of glucose to compensate the action of excess insulin.

Cases have been reported where a liberal amount of honey was administered to avert an insulin shock due to subglycemia, but it was of no benefit; on the other hand, a subsequent administration of glucose rapidly neutralised the harmful effects of insulin. The slow absorption of levulose and the delay of trans-forming it in the system into glucose would account for the inefficiency. This plainly proves that a fundamental chemical and physiological contrast exists between ordinary sugar and honey. There is much the same disparity between glucose and levulose, the latter an important component of honey. The symptoms of subglycemia which follow the complete removal of the liver in animals are promptly dispelled by the administration of glucose, while levulose is ineffective. It is noteworthy that levulose is rarely, if ever, found in the blood.

Diabetic patients who have had to endure for endless years the self-inflicted injections of insulin are often exposed to insulin-shock, which is really subglycemic reaction. Sometimes it is impossible to give an adequate reason for this dangerous and occasionally fatal occurrence. There are many causes which may produce such a state and diabetics ought to be well instructed in their appreciation. This is a difficult task for a layman, often enough even for an intelligent physician. The most common causes which are responsible for such a state are, as a rule, errors in administering the proper amount of insulin, usually too large a dose; a delay in eating an appropriate meal; that is, a poor adjustment of diet or loss of part of the food by vomiting, diarrhoea or gastric obstruction; violent exercise in combination with insulin, etc. Diabetics often use the same site for injections. This delays or prevents absorption and requires an increase of insulin, which additional dose, if injected into a new site, will absorb rapidly, lower the blood-sugar level and produce a shock.

Many instances have been reported where honey was well tolerated by diabetics and supplied them with required energy. In 1933, after the author had published a questionnaire to bee-keepers through the courtesy of apicultural journals, to obtain information about the effects of bee stings, especially about their remedial value in rheumatic and arthritic conditions, many correspondents volunteered illuminating reports about the medicinal value of honey. Some of these communications state that honey has been used by them in hopeless diabetic conditions with the best success and resulted in cures. Some reports are very instructive. Mr. G. J., of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, writes, "I am a railroad engineer by trade, but I became a diabetes victim and I had to re-sign my job because I fell away to nothing. The doctors gave me up and proclaimed that there was no hope for me. Then I made up my mind to take up a diet that I asked for but the doctors refused and here it is:

Spinach, raw or cooked, mostly raw.

Lettuce, sweetened with honey and lime juice.

Raw carrots, washed, brushed and grated, sweetened with honey to taste.

Raw cabbage salad with lime juice and honey.

Ripe tomatoes, raw or canned, sweetened with honey. Whole wheat bread.

I Began this diet in 1922 and at the end of 1923 the doctors could not find a trace of sugar, though several of them have tested me to satisfy their curiosity. I am now past 65, eat any-thing on the table, and will do as much work as any man of my age, if not more, after going through two railroad wrecks and being picked up twice for dead. Whisky was not the cause of the wrecks, for I do not touch the cursed stuff."

Mr. L. M. D. of Edmeston, New York, writes that he not only cured many cases of rheumatism with bee stings but also supplies a list of people who were victims of diabetes. After they indulged in honey they recovered. "Mr. and Mrs. F. D. both suffered from diabetes, doctoring with various physicians for a long time without improving. Finally they went on a diet consisting of large amounts of honey and plenty of fruit, and today both are alright."

Such disclosures (call them intrusions), even though they originate from the laity, ought to arouse the attention of the venerable medical fraternity.

To justify the supposition that honey can be given to diabetics, there are also statements from members of the medical profession. Dr. F. C. Ameiss advocated tupelo honey for diabetics, as having a minimum percentage of dextrose and a maximum of levulose. (Tupelo is a tree of the dogwood family.) Dr. Desiderius de Beszedits, of Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero, Mexico, in an article in the Medical World, October, 1934, "Treat-ment of Diabetes," wrote the following: "Just one more thing to conclude: the employing of honey-diet in the treatment of diabetes may look antiscientific, antimedical, even rather silly to the theoretical minded, uninitiated or to a superficial observer. Just at this writing, my bee flocks (a cross between the lazy native Indian wasp-like bee and the large, ever-busy Hungarian-also called Italian-bee, I imported from Europe) are busy gathering honey from a plant now in bloom here, called retama or tecoma mollis, retania or tronadora. We make tincture and fluid extract of this plant (leaves and roots), and I give it to diabetic patients in drop doses in manzanilla tea when I cannot obtain the leaves for the tea that I use in preference. The tea, the tincture and the fluid extract of this plant have a decidedly and markedly antiglycosuric and eupeptic quality and its antipolyuric effect is notably rapid. Now we all know that the bee sucks the quintessence of the flower juice, adds something of her own to it (saliva or some other substance) and so manufactures it into honey. Each country has a large number of provenly medicinal plants, and the bees gather their honey from such flowers. Making our deductions, it is not difficult to understand why, on this basis, honey fits into the curative diet for diabetes. Most likely it is just the proper food for the depleted hungry glands." (The belief that the curative properties of certain plants are transmitted by the bees from the blooms into the honey they produce, is rather wide-spread. Menelik, the great King of the Ethiopians, according to Dr. Theodorows (Lancet, 1897) grew Coso trees under which he placed the hives. The Coso honey which the bees gathered from the blooms was considered an excellent worm remedy. A tablespoonful of the honey in water was supposed to be sufficient to produce results. The natives of India drop lotus honey into the eyes to cure cataracts. The belief in the anti-tuberculotic effect of Eucalyptus honey is world-wide.)

Dr. A. Y. Davidov of Russia has found honey a good substitute for sugar and other sweet foodstuffs in diabetes. Dr. Davidov believes that honey prevents acetonemia and diminishes the amount of sugar in the urine in spite of the fact that honey contains 75% sugar. One of his patients used one pound of honey in ten days without an increase of the sugar rate in the urine. When the use of honey was stopped for a while the sugar percentage in the urine rose and the patient was again given four teaspoonfuls of honey daily, after which the sugar rate again dropped. Dr. Davidov reported six more instances where honey had a beneficial effect in diabetes.

Dr. L. R. Emerick of Eaton, Ohio, a specialist in diabetes, used honey in the diet of more than 250 diabetic patients with success. The fame of the late Dr. R. J. Goss of Middlebury, Vermont, was proclaimed throughout the State for helping diabetics on a honey diet. A neighbor of his related that he has seen many patients arrive for treatments weak and emaciated but they soon gained in weight, looked splendid and were able to walk for miles.

(The author would earnestly caution diabetics not to use honey without the advice and strict control of their physicians.)

Professor A. Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of Vitamin C, published interesting results which he obtained by peroral administration of succinic acid in the treatment of acidosis of diabetics (Orvosi Hetilap. Budapest, No. 24, June 12, 1937). These, if confirmed, may explain the beneficial effects of various acids, among others lactic, succinic, citric, malic acid, etc., which honey contains. The formation of dangerous acetone in diabetes is possibly corrected through the aid of these acids.

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