Is bee pollen all it is cracked up to bee?

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You may have heard that the latest “buzz” is bee pollen. Up there with the odder health foods I have come across, bee pollen consists of pollen that the bees have collected on their bodies mixed with, rather delightfully, bee saliva and enzymes. Intrigued by the countless and quite frankly too-good-to-be-true health claims relating to bee pollen I decided to do a little digging on the topic.

Bee pollen is not a natural component of any foods commonly consumed, including honey but it may be taken as a supplement in capsules or tablets or added to food in powder or granular form. On average, pollen contains 60% carbohydrates, 20% protein, 7% fat, 7% moisture (water) and 6% minerals. A 22.6% protein pollen has been shown to be a superior source of amino acids (when measured by dry weight percentage of crude protein) compared to a whole egg or to cow’s milk. As well as being rich in proteins and free amino acids, bee pollen is rich in B vitamins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and the trace minerals potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, selenium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, manganese. Many of its diverse health benefits are thought to due to its antioxidant, antifungal and antimicrobial compounds and flavonoids.

So far preliminary research has shown bee pollen may help to decrease PMS symptoms and improve symptoms of prostatitis in men. However, research is in its very early days and both these studies are small and not yet well replicated. Other potential uses identified so far include stimulating ovarian function, being used as a remedy for hay fever and allergies, weight-control, lowering high blood pressure, diabetes, endurance and energy, libido, mental function and health and beauty and many more, although at this point it is difficult to separate the hype from the scientific fact.

Another point of concern is that the exact component varies from batch to batch and by location since the pollen is unique to the plants the bee has visited and if pollen is collected from plants where pesticides and other chemicals are used then these will remain in the bee pollen that is consumed. Also, people with severe pollen or bee allergies, and pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use bee pollen under any circumstances

Overall, bee pollen is certainly a “superfood”, but as are most foods produced by Mother Earth before processing robs them of their super powers!  I would certainly think about supplementing with bee pollen if I had particular deficiencies. However, as with most supplements it would seem that quality is key and don’t believe every health claim you read…

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