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How Nutritious Is Bee Pollen Exactly?
Bee pollen is considered so beneficial that the German Federal Board of Health recognizes it as medicine.
Advocates are quick to tout the benefits of this so-called super food, saying it can:
- Relieve inflammation
- Work as an antioxidant
- Boost liver health
- Strengthen the immune system
- Work as a dietary supplement
- Ease symptoms of menopause
- Reduce stress
- Speed up healing
Bee pollen is a ball of pollen made by young bees when they land on a flower. It’s a mixture of pollen, saliva, and nectar or honey. Bees carry these balls back to the hive in sacs on their legs and store them in the hive’s honeycomb. The pollen then ferments into “bee bread,” which feeds a bee colony.
Beekeepers collect pollen from bees by keeping a thick comb in the entrance of their hives. When bees pass through it, it knocks the pollen off their legs into a collection bin below. The bees then must go out to collect more pollen.
Bee pollen in its natural form comes as small, crunchy pellets. One tablespoon of bee pollen contains:
- 16 calories
- 0.24 grams of fat
- 1.2 grams of protein
- 2.18 grams of carbohydrates
- 250 types of nutrients, including vitamins and flavonoids
You can add it to foods like yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies. It can be ground down as a supplement powder or into a capsule.
In recent years, a number of scientists have published studies on the supposed health benefits of bee pollen. However, these studies are mostly on animals and have yet to be proven on humans.
Here’s what the research says about bee pollen benefits:
Bee pollen may work similarly to anti-inflammatory drugs, according to researchers. In one study on rats, scientists found that bee pollen extract reduced inflammation in rats with swollen paws. Research on mice showed bee pollen had anti-inflammatory effects when used to treat their liver disease.
Working as an antioxidant
Researchers have found that bee pollen has very high antioxidant properties similar to those of fermented foods. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that exist in plant-based foods, usually those that are red or dark in color, as well as fermented foods.
Some common antioxidants include:
- flavenols (found in chocolate)
- resveratrol (found in wine)
- lycopene (found in tomatoes)
- vitamins A, C, and E
Antioxidants keep people healthy by counteracting oxidants such as air pollution and cigarette smoke that can damage the body.
Boosting liver health
The liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the body. Researchers found that in rats, bee pollen helps keep the liver healthy and can even help the healing process after liver damage.
Researchers noted that the rats had no side effects in taking bee pollen, compared to silibinin, a medication that also contains antioxidants but can also cause harm.
Strengthening the immune system
A strong immune system is necessary for fighting off disease and keeping you healthy. One study found that bee pollen naturally inhibits allergic reactions in mice. Another study suggests that bee pollen has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. These properties could help kill off bacteria and viruses, such as staphylococcus aureus, which causes food poisoning.
Working as a dietary supplement
Bee pollen could potentially work as a supplement that helps your diet and health. One study looked at rabbits that received a bee pollen supplement in addition to their regular diet. They had a longer lifespan and also greater reproductive success. They gave birth to healthier, stronger babies compared to rabbits who didn’t take the supplement.
Another study found that malnourished, old rats experienced improved muscle mass and metabolism after eating a diet that contained bee pollen.
Easing symptoms of menopause
Many women who take antihormonal medications often experience symptoms of menopause. One study found that some women with breast cancer who took a bee pollen supplement experienced fewer, less intense menopause symptoms than those who didn’t.
Bee pollen can increase blood flow to the body’s nervous system, helping reduce stress. It’s also effective for tiredness, according to a review of bee pollen.
Always buy your supplements from a reputable source. It’s possible to buy tainted bee pollen that contains potentially dangerous ingredients reported to cause serious side effects, including increased heart rate, cardiac arrest, and even death.
Talk to a doctor before taking any supplements or herbs. Additionally, if you’re allergic to bee stings or wasps, you should avoid bee pollen. Discontinue the supplement immediately if you experience:
- trouble breathing
Experts also recommend that pregnant women avoid taking bee pollen, as it may interfere with pregnancy.
For most people, bee pollen appears to be a safe dietary supplement. There are many claims about its health benefits, but most of the science has been done on animals and cells, not people.
Be sure to buy bee pollen from a trusted source. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have before taking bee pollen. While it’s not guaranteed that bee pollen will help you, it probably won’t hurt you either.