INNOVATION

Love NZ Manuka Honey? Cheap Aussie Honey Has Same Medical Benefits

Same diff, Kiwis.

30/12/2016 8:40 AM AEDT | Updated 30/12/2016 10:04 AM AEDT
Kieran Scott
Manuka honey is great spread on bread, but it's also a bacteria-fighting salve.

Manuka honey is one of New Zealand's most precious commodities, along with L&P soft drink, and Bret and Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords.

The honey has proven medicinal benefits, a rich flavour and a price tag to match, but new research out of Australia has found some Aussie varieties have just as much of the active ingredient -- and they're mostly cheaper.

University of Technology Sydney researcher Nural Cokcetin said the thing that gave Manuka honey its medicinal properties was not that clear Kiwi air and water, but a nectar-derived chemical that fights bacteria called methylglyoxal.

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Honey bees in Australia present a sort of safe island in the world, as they are not affected by a disastrous mite.

She said the honey's bacteria-fighting abilities were especially valuable given the globe's impending antibiotic resistance crisis, where antibiotics are gradually becoming less effective.

"These findings put Australian manuka honey on the international radar at a time when antibiotic resistance is recognised as a global crisis," Cokcetin said.

"Our study provides the proof for what we've long assumed -- that this compound, methylglyoxal, is present in high levels in Australian manuka honeys.

"We've also shown that the activity of Australian manuka honeys has remained unchanged over seven years from harvest, which has huge implications for extending the shelf life of medicinal honey products."

How does honey fight superbugs?

Cokcetin said some honey could kill bacteria, and no matter how prolonged the use was, the bacteria never became resistant to it.

"All honeys have different flavours and medicinal properties, depending on the flowers bees visit for nectar," Cokcetin said.

"What makes manuka honey so special is the exceptionally high level of stable antibacterial activity that arises from a naturally occurring compound in the nectar of manuka flowers.

"It's the ingredient we know acts against golden staph and other superbugs resistant to current antibiotics."

The research is part of a five-year project honey bee and pollination research program looking to future-proof the 12,400 registered beekeepers in Australia that produces up to 30,000 tonnes of honey annually.

Australia is still mostly free of the varroa mite, unlike the rest of the beekeeping world, making it a kind of 'insurance policy' for bees worldwide.



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