You may have heard the buzz (pun intended) surrounding bee pollen and its many benefits on social media recently, or this may be your first introduction to it. I first came across bee pollen and its superfood status a few months ago, however, the use of bee pollen as a medicine and valuable food source dates back thousands of years. It is thought to be one of the most complete food sources due to its nutrient-dense content and is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Chinese texts, it was known as ‘Ambrosia’ or food of the gods. There is even evidence of it being used by the first tribe in Africa from which man descended.
So what is bee pollen? Put simply it is a mixture of plant pollen, nectar and honey bee secretions. It gathers on the legs of the honey bee as they travel from plant to plant gathering nectar. The harvesting process is non-invasive and causes no undue stress to the bee. The beekeeper simply places a covering over the entrance of the hive which has small holes cut out and as the bees pass through these holes some of the pollen comes off their legs and is harvested in a container.
Bee pollen is widely considered a superfood due to its proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, these produce amazing health benefits which include:
- Cardio-Vascular Protection
Antioxidant therapy is used to treat heart-attack patients, bee pollen is extremely high in antioxidants making it perfect for this form of treatment. Scientists conducted a study on rats, administering bee pollen extract to them for thirty days, after this time period was up they took images of the rat’s hearts and found that the rats who had been given the bee pollen extract had less heart damage than the control group.
- Combat Liver Damage and Prevent Obesity
Obesity is often linked with liver damage, this is due to the accumulation of fat in the liver cells. Research has shown that phenolic compounds can aid weight loss, and bee pollen is rich in these phenolic compounds. A study was conducted on obese mice in which they were administered bee pollen extract for eight weeks. After these eight weeks, their body weight had significantly decreased and so had the fat build-up in the liver.
- Improving Ovarian Function
Bee pollen was observed to regulate ovarian function by increasing the progesterone and estradiol secretions and decreasing insulin-like growth factor which contributes to the normal healthy function of the ovaries. This was demonstrated in a study done on female rats. They split the rats into three groups, the first were a control group, the second group were administered a medium dose of bee pollen extract and the third were administered a high dose. There were slight differences in the second and third groups reaction but it was found that both these groups had improved ovarian function after ninety days.
It is important to note that the above facts are all based on animal studies, however, the research concluded that there was strong evidence to suggest that the benefits would be applicable to human subjects, stating ‘Bee pollen has served to prevent and treat many chronic diseases, especially metabolic disorders. It has a preventive role in various ailments such as diabetes, obesity, hyper-dyslipidemia, and heart complications’
It was a Vogue interview with Victoria Beckham which launched the initial wave of bee pollen popularity in the UK back in 2014. She is quoted to have said ‘Twenty-two amino acids, 12 vitamins, 28 minerals,We can’t have wrinkles!’
This sudden rise in popularity was welcomed by Morris Ahmed, a founder of Golden Greens, a family-run organic supplements company and one of the first UK companies to pioneer bee pollen. Ahmed and his wife had first come across bee pollen after thirty years of vegetarianism had left them vitamin-deficient. A friend had recommended bee pollen as a solution to this problem. As a long-time advocate of natural health supplements, Ahmed tells me that ‘Bee pollen is extremely nutritious and filled with vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins. Because it’s a food source, and in our case, an organic food source, the vitamins and minerals have much greater bioavailability than if they were in a tablet or capsule’. When I asked Ahmed about the sustainability of bee pollen he talked about the importance of it being organic. To ensure that the pollen is organic, all the flowers that the bees gather it from must be pesticide-free, bees have a large radius of flight when gathering pollen so this creates conservational areas that are unharmed by chemicals.
Whilst the wonders of bee pollen are seemingly endless it is important to recognise the limitations. Bee pollen can pose a risk to those with allergies to other bee products such as honey or in some cases even bee stings. This isn’t always the case but it is best air on the side of caution.
The myriad of benefits that bee pollen has are well documented and trusted by many, bee pollen is a health trend I can certainly get behind, from the first tribe in Africa all the way through to Victoria Beckham, bee pollen comes highly recommended.