The modern human diet contains refined sugars mainly fructose, with culpability in the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases. We investigated the effects of natural honey (NH) as a source of fructose on metabolism in growing animal models. This was to determine whether NH can substitute refined sugars, without adverse effects. Fifty-nine suckling rats were fed diets containing NH or cane syrup (golden syrup, GS) from age 7 to 91 days. Thereafter the rats’ general health indices and growth parameters were obtained. Compared to GS, NH increased (p < 0.01) body weight gain, and linear growth in the males while none of the diets influenced females’ growth. Dietary GS increased (p < 0.0001) visceral fat weight, and caused hepatomegaly in the males. There was neither visceral fat weight increase in the NH-fed and female rats. The liver functionality was preserved in the honey-fed rats. Unlike cane syrup, NH prolonged intake by infants could not compromise the rats’ health status in later life. NH is a healthy source of dietary sugars, and female rats were less susceptible to metabolic health problems. Extrapolating data from male rats to females should be done with caution due to potential gender differences in response to dietary manipulations.
Key words: Cane syrup, dietary supplements, disease, growth, health, metabolism, natural honey, obesity, sugar, rats.
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