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updated 4/13/2004 7:16:11 PM ET 2004-04-13T23:16:11

A new study shows that a daily dose of honey does more than just satisfy your sweet tooth, it also raises levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in the blood.

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Researchers say honey contains varying concentrations of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Polyphenols are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and olive oil.

Although a previous study shows that a dose of honey can deliver a surge of antioxidants, researchers say this is the first study to look at the effects of long-term honey consumption.

The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif.

Honey for health
In the study, researchers fed 25 participants about 4 tablespoons of buckwheat honey per day for 29 days in addition to their regular diets. Two types of honey containing different amounts of polyphenols were tested.

Blood samples taken at the beginning and end of the study showed a direct link between honey consumption and levels of disease-fighting polyphenols. The more polyphenol-containing honey they ate, the higher the levels of antioxidants were in their blood.

Researchers Heidrun Gross of the University of California-Davis and colleagues say that antioxidants are thought to protect humans from disease by slowing potentially dangerous disease processes in the body. The compounds work by scavenging free radicals -- unstable compounds that can damage healthy cells and compromise their function.

Researchers say that given the fact that the average person consumes more than 150 pounds of sweetener per year, substituting honey in some foods for traditional sweeteners may be a healthier option.

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