Is Cooked Honey TOXIC? (and other honey myths)

The idea that cooking honey makes it somehow
unfit for human consumption has been around for literally thousands of years, and it does
have a scientific basis. But just because something has a scientific basis doesn’t necessarily
mean that it’s true. And, in fact, the available science would seem to indicate this one probably
isn’t true. Cooking honey might deprive it of some of its more subtle flavors, and maybe
some of its nutritional value. But cooking honey does not make it “toxic.” And understanding
how an idea can have a scientific basis and yet still be wrong is basic part of the scientific
literacy to which all of us non-scientists should aspire. “Honey, if heated, or taken by a person suffering
from heat becomes fatal due to its association with poisons.” That’s according the Charaka Samhita, an ancient
Sanskrit text on the Indian traditional medicine system known as Ayurveda. Scholars believe
it was first written down somewheres around 2,000 years ago — and, you know, a lot can
happen in a couple millennia. I don’t know, maybe that was actually true back then, that
heated honey would be fatal. But, about 10 years ago, some researchers at India’s Defence
Food Research Laboratory did some experiments to see if heated honey really is toxic — at
least, you know, nowadays. They got a couple of different kinds of honey.
As everyone knows, honey comes in three basic types: raw, clear and bear. That last one
was a joke. Raw honey is just taken out of the beehive and then strained to remove any
little bits of wax and bee parts that are in there. And that’s it. It’s widely believed that raw honey has various
health benefits — it’s an antioxidant, it fights infections, it’s good for your cholesterol.
But for what it’s worth, the EU’s Food Safety Authority, among other scientific bodies,
considers those claims to be unsubstantiated by research. There’s also a persistent belief that eating
raw honey that was produced in your local area can help with seasonal allergies, by
exposing you to small doses of pollen from your local ecosystem, thereby allowing you
to become tolerant of them. This is, indeed, a proven treatment for seasonal allergies
— but only when it’s done with precisely formulated pharmaceutical injections — not
with rando bee puke from around the block. You’ll note this bottle prominently says “Southeast”
on it — this is to tell me that it was made by bees in my region of the United States.
The package designers don’t realize that I’ve actually read the landmark 2002 study out
of the University of Connecticut which found no link whatsoever between local honey consumption
and allergies as compared to a placebo. It remains the position of the American College
of Allergy Asthma and Immunology that “[T]here is no scientific proof that eating local honey
will improve seasonal allergies,” and “in rare cases there might actually be a risk.”
A risk that somebody with a really serious allergy could have their throat swell up and
go into anaphylactic shock if they eat the wrong raw honey. Just because an idea has a scientific basis
doesn’t mean it’s supported by the available science. Anyway, that’s raw honey. “Normal” honey has
typically been filtered a bit more aggressively to get rid of the slightest impurity and give
you that clear look — and it’s typically been pasteurized to kill some of the yeasts
in there, and therefore extend shelf life. By the way, that’ll kill the botulism bacteria,
but not its spores or the toxins — that’s why babies aren’t supposed to have any kind
of honey. If you’ve eaten normal, mass-market clear
honey at some point in your life, you have had cooked honey. Pasteurization=heat. You’ve
had cooked honey, and you ain’t dead yet. But just because something isn’t acutely toxic
doesn’t mean it’s not slowly killing you over a long time with repeated exposure. That’s
called chronic toxicity. And that’s probably what those scientists in India were really
looking for when they did their experiments. They took some raw honey, and some pasteurized
honey, and they subjected both to the same battery of tests. They heated it to 60 degrees Celsius / 140
Fahrenheit — that’s at the low end of the temperatures at which honey might be pasteurized. They also heated it to 140 Celsius — that’s
284 Fahrenheit. Really hot, as far as sugar goes. And they held it there for a full two
minutes. Let’s see what honey looks, smells and tastes like when it’s that hot for two
minutes. Now, note that I have my thermometer on Celsius,
because we’re doing science here, not cooking. As the temperature creeps up, nothing much
happens until we near 100 degrees, otherwise known as the boiling point of water. Honey
is about 20 percent water, and out it comes. Oops, are we gonna need a bigger pot? No,
thankfully. Some pretty unpleasant smells are starting come off it, and we’ve hit 140
Celsius, so T-minus 2 minutes, and mark. Oh, like my fancy new watch? It is courtesy of
the sponsor of this video, Filippo Loreti. I don’t think I’ve worn a watch since I got
my first cell phone senior year of college — yes I am old, but I was also a late-adopter.
A hold-out, really. Anyway, here’s the problem with always using your phone as a watch: odds
are high you’re gonna check the time and then get immediately distracted by Instagram or
something. A real watch just tells you the time — it doesn’t suck your time. Also
real watches last forever, whereas my phone is at 1 percent. Filippo Loreti was started by a couple brothers
who didn’t understand why beautifully-designed watches had to be 4 or 5 figures. They do
a direct-to-consumer business model that gets the price way lower. They’re kinda the Warby
Parker of watches — which is probably why my glasses match my watch so well. I got one
for Lauren — the Marble Rose Gold Mesh. Watches are a classic gift item for a reason.
Because you watch me, Filippo Loreti will give you 70 percent off your personalized
watch, and then a $50 gift card for another order. Keep the watch and give away the gift
card, or give them both away. Just use my link and code in the description. My watch, by the way, is the Ascari, which
in addition to looking cool and classy as the Italian race car driver for which it was
named, has a chronograph on it, for precision timing. And indeed, two minutes is up. That
honey look and smells disgusting — which is not the same as being poisonous, though
it sure tasted like it. Anyway, the researchers also mixed honey with
an equal quantities of ghee — Indian-style clarified butter. The Charaka Samhita warns:
“Do not eat food with antagonistic qualities,” such as “equal amounts of honey and ghee.” Yes, I made my own ghee. You boil the butter
until the water is gone and the milk solids sink to the bottom. That’s clarified butter.
Then you let the milk solids brown, giving a toasty flavor to all the milk fat around
it. That is ghee. You just strain it off, leaving the solids behind to be discarded.
I’m sure that people do it lots of different ways, but that’s the basic idea. Anyway… The researchers also mixed heated honey with
heated ghee. Then they did a bunch of analysis on all the resulting samples. The cooked honey
was different in lots of ways — it was less dense, it was less acidic, it actually had
more antioxidant activity. But here’s the big difference. The cooked honey had more
HMF — Hydroxymethylfurfural. HMF is a byproduct of the Maillard reaction
— the browning reaction that makes food worth eating and life worth living. In particular,
it’s formed by the dehydration of sugars that can happen at high heat. HMF occurs naturally in raw honeys, especially
honeys produced in very, very hot climates. The honey literally cooks a little bit in
the hive. But certainly cooking the honey some more results in more HMF, as these experiments
proved. And HMF has been a compound of concern to scientists for some time, because some
in vitro experiments indicated that it might be carcinogenic. In vitro experiments are experiments done
in like a test tube, not on a living organism, like a lab rat or a person. Those are known
as in vivo experiments, and in vivo experiments on HMF have been much less concerning. A few studies where they gave big doses of
HMF to lab rats seemed to indicate a weak carcinogenic affect in the intestinal tract,
but those findings were all-but dismissed by these German scientists who published a
very widely-cited risk assessment of HMF in 2011. Their conclusion? “No relevance for
humans concerning carcinogenic and genotoxic effects can be derived.” However, they did
raise concern about the concentrations of HMF used in caramel colorings for foods. Those scientists in India fed their ghee and
honey samples to rats for six weeks, and what did they find? Absolutely nothing, compared
to a control group. No differences in weight gain, no differences in their organs, bupkis. There is a reason to believe that HMF might
be bad for you if you eat a ton of it, but sweetening a sauce with a squeeze of honey
every now and then ain’t gonna do it. Yes that recipe is coming. Oh and other thing: HMF is in everything.
It’s not just honey. In particular it’s in roasted coffee, dried fruits and — wait
for it — baked goods. There’s tons of it in toast. You want to be worried about something vis
a vis honey, be worried about this: colony collapse disorder. This is the global trend
in recent years of worker bees just peacing out, leaving their queen and babies behind.
This is a phenomenon that endangers not only your honey habit, but all the crops you eat
that honey bees pollinate, which is a lot. These bees I’ve been showing you live on the
campus of Berry College, just north of where I live in Georgia. They’re happy bees. They’re
looked after by Berry student Shelby Koch. “It’s kinda funny being the beekeeper around
here. You know, you walk out of lunch after classes, and you’re like — oh yeah, there
are my girls foraging in the holly next to the science building, or whatever, you know?” And they don’t just eat landscaping nectar
— they eat a varied diet of wildflowers and clover. One theory as to what’s driving
colony collapse disorder is monoculture — bees feeding off of these large-scale agricultural
operations with just one crop in them. “Kinda like, you know, vegetables are great
for you, but if you only ever ate vegetables and didn’t get any source of protein from
anything, you probably wouldn’t be doing as well. It’s kinda the same idea with bees,
and so I’ve seen some people cite that as an issue.” But, Koch says, nobody really knows what’s
doing this. Could be a lot of things. “Fungicides negatively impacting symbiotic
fungi within the hive. There’s large concern over large-scale pesticide usage.” Yeesh. Well, I’m glad she’s working on it.
I don’t really have much for you here, other than to say that if you want to be worried
about something having to do with honey, be worried about that, and be aware that our
choices as food consumers might be a causal factor. But, yeah, cook your honey, it’s fine.

100 thoughts on “Is Cooked Honey TOXIC? (and other honey myths)

  1. Q: Do people actually believe this?
    A: Yep! Google it. Also, every time I cook with honey on the channel, I get DMs.

  2. CAUTION!! (sorry that this will affect your profits, Adam) Filippo Loreti watches are essentially the same as every other budget fashion watch brand out there. Brands like MVMT watches, who are notorious for upselling cheap, crappy chinese-made watches. I've also heard of a few influencers being scammed by Filippo Loreti by having them not hold up their end of the contract, therefore not getting payed. If you like the look of the watches, and don't really care about quality, by all means buy one. But be careful, fellas.

  3. Hey Adam, I like and agree with your videos, but something I'd like to ask you is why don't you distinguish between grass-fed butters and conventional butters, and their meats as well? I do recall you saying to buy meat that agrees with the viewer's values in your Q&A, but you've never done an in-depth video on health or environmental differences between 100% grass-fed animal products and their grain fed counterparts. There's also a local aspect (as in, getting it from a local farmer or butcher) that I feel you sometimes leave out. Cheers!

  4. Buyer Beware! Fashion watch brands such as Filippo Loreti, MVMT, Linjer, Daniel Wellington, etc. are very low quality, usually Chinese mass-produced items! They have nearly no quality and are sold by using fancy marketing jargon such as "direct consumer models" and "cutting out the middle man". This (sarcastic) imgur album gives a good picture of how these brands can be conceptualized:

    You're much better off with a (sometimes less expensive) high-quality watch from a reputable brand like Timex, Swatch, Tissot, Seiko, Casio, Citizen, etc.

  5. There's a chinese myth that also tells you to not eat strawberries, oranges, any kind of fruit with milk or you'll get stomach cancer.

  6. adam, your thumbnail is suggestive of sexual activity. i watch this channel with my 5 year old nephew (who has diabetes) please refrain from such behavior or i will call the police!

  7. these fake ass honeys , real pure honey actually gets thick white colored not these yellow liquidy you guys are just drinking sugar

  8. Man do I wish you could do the math behind these. A person with your audience exposing critical failures in popolarized methods of statistics would bd cool.

  9. Watches are $4000 because those are mechanical and not quartz watches. All the expensive watches are trying to be computers without electricity.

  10. I'm really surprised to hear about how babies can't consume honey. I've seen vendors at swap meets and other markets that sell pacifiers that filled with honey, and I've heard from relatives that they're made so that a baby can eat something sweet that isn't completely unhealthy.

  11. Great video! I have been cooking honey for years and had no idea it could be bad for me.
    Shelby was very interesting and sounds like actress Holly Hunter, also from Georgia!

  12. u persuaded me to buy a watch, nice. you should write commercials or something cuz I would buy whatever u tried to make want us to buy. ur voice is perfect man

  13. How dare you dismiss the power of the bear. You shall not meet a good end due to this. The bear sees all. The upside down bear hears all.

  14. People are myopic. "Honey can kill me!" when in reality they should be thinking "colony collapse can kill most crops on this planet".

  15. Please can anyone tell me what the emojis at the end mean!
    I've seen them in several videos and I cant figure out the meaning!
    Oil wing right? vinegar chicken hand? wine leg arm?

  16. Hello Adam, I pronounce your name Ragusa because I'm a savage. If I knew you IRL I wouldn't do this.

    p.s. I enjoy all of your videos.

  17. Wtf – Never heard of those myths.

    The nutritional and bacterial change in cooking is obvious, anything else is new to me. Interesting.

  18. Comment section, help me pls. I like green tea, I drink a cup when I sit down to study every day. I make it with sugar usually, but when I try to add a spoonful of honey into hot green tea it starts tasting weird, like cow fodder, dry grass or something like that. What am I doing wrong???

  19. I am a flat earther.
    A new video has come out!

    ''Just because something has a scientific base doesn't mean it's true''

    I clicked away from the video.

  20. Now lets add that all because something is even found to be bad for you, that you still have to account for how bad. After all say something caused a 10% increase to your chance of getting cancer, but that 10% only applied to say a 7% default chance. So all it did was make your chance of getting cancer become 7.1%, and thats after being exposed every day and at an amount you probably wouldn't reach all the time. Not to mention you just gotta consider risks as well, like hey if you like something but it's barely doing anything negative to you and down the road will barely effect you. Is it worth being worried about, especially when compared to so many other things you do.

  21. Raw honey is better. Cooking with honey is not bad. The girl at the end is very bright and said an important line at the end Vegetables are good but without protein not so good.

  22. This was a great video, Adam. I don't know if you've stopped working at Mercer since this video was made, but you sounded clearer in this, like you're less stressed. Hope you and the family are doing well!

  23. My personal experience with homemade ghee. I usually cook with a thermometer and keep the temp between 225 and 250. Along with the milk solids you also need to get rid of the water. Usually I simmered for 10-15 minutes until the boiling turns into fizzing, all the whole skimming as many milk fats as possible that float to the surface. After that I strain through a cheese cloth and voila! Ghee! Along with a higher smoke point than butter, and could also be an acceptable substitute for those lactose intolerant*

    * I am not a doctor so while making ghee, which is basically clarified butter, you remove most the lactose and caseine, you don’t remove all so your mileage may vary.

  24. Little known fact: Ragusea is the Italian word for "does your research and subsequent education so you don't have to."

  25. “Maybe” it loses some of its nutritional value?! It literally loses its benefits if you kill the enzymes. And it becomes pure sugar syrup. Raw honey is best and is the one you want to eat if you’re sick or just in general, unless you just want to eat unhealthy and just for taste anyway… In tht case I dont see how white/brown sugar or maply syrup would be healthier if cooked.

  26. Muh studies. Muh “toxins” when raw 🤦🏻‍♂️
    Please just stick to cooking. I’ve yet to see a cook who knows about nutrition.

  27. Try making Senku Cola from the anime series Dr. Stone,
    it involves in cooking honey and making it something called as honey caramel.

  28. Eating on only ONE crop source sounds very plausible for colony collapse in bees.

    If you ate ONLY bananas, oh you're okay in potassium, but you're missing out on so many other essential nutrients that are not found in bananas.

  29. Cooked honey is toxic?
    If that's the case, all honey biscuits honey muffins honey anything shouldn't even exist since they were heated to quite high temperatures

  30. Can you do scientific video about oil? What oils are best for cooking and what are best as "raw". Including olive oils, vegetable oils, and canola oils. Especially interested what happens to different olive oils while heating them.

  31. Guys, go search any review for fillipo loreti, they resell cheap crappy watches at insane markup, literally any company that is willing to give you 70% off a watch that looks as good as much higher prices watches. The quality sucks, beware

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