There are many weight loss supplements or products out in the market right now. One of the most natural-seeming ones is bee pollen. Because of the fact that Bee Pollen has been classified as a food, it has been an increasingly popular way to supplement a regular diet. Bee Pollen is actually very nutrient dense and contains a lot of enzymes that are partially active in humans and cost effective supplement to take given the number of positive effects it appears to have.
It is available in many supplements touted as a natural alternative in either a powder, granule form or capsule form. There are many claims as to the health benefits of bee pollen products:
- Naturally Energizing
- Strengthens Immune system
- Supports Cardiovascular health
- High in Antioxidants
- Boosts Metabolism
- Enhances Liver Function
- Supports nutrient absorption
- Powerful Anti-Inflammatory
- Regulation of high blood pressure
Some weight loss products list and advertise bee pollen as its chief ingredient and touting Bee Pollen as “Nature’s Multivitamin”
And while there are more than a handful studies that as you’ll see below, may support many of the marketing claims for Bee Pollen as dietary supplements, including a boost to the metabolism which, with all things remaining equal, should allow a person to lose weight, there are still valid concerns regarding its safety and efficacy.
What is It?
Bee pollen is a combination of plant pollen and honeybee secretions and nectar.
Bee pollen is a natural byproduct of the nectar collection processes by the bees. It has been in use throughout history, even the bible and ancient Egyptian texts are documented proof of their use in public health. (1) Bee Pollen contains bioactive compounds including proteins, amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and polyphenols. (2) It enhances different bodily functions and offers protection against many diseases.
It is also a highly nutrient-dense food. As a result, it can be very beneficial in dealing with health issues that are either caused or aggravated by a poor diet. Pollen is said to contain 22 amino acids humans need to survive and is especially high in proline and hydroxyproline. (3)
Pollen has been found to contain different enzymes, coenzymes, and hormones that may be at least partially active in humans. It contains lipids primarily in the form of free unsaturated fatty acids, as well as lecithin/phospholipids, and phytosterols/cholesterol. (4)
The Scientific Basis for Bee Pollen as A Weight Loss Supplement
A study that conducted testing in animals found that the more pollen was fed to the subjects, the more weight loss there was in the test subjects. It would appear to suggest that the bee pollen acted as an efficient and effortless weight loss supplement without any substantial side effect or mortality. (5)
Obesity is a health problem and nonalcoholic fatty liver is a common ailment belonging to obesity. Bee pollen is rich in phenolic compounds that could play a crucial role in avoiding obesity and fatty liver because these phenolic compounds that it has can enhance the absorption of nutrients, lipid metabolism and weight loss. (6)
For diabetics, Bee pollen extracts showed amylase inhibition which means that it could be used as an inhibitor to ameliorate blood sugar.The study found that bee pollen contains phenol and flavonoid compounds which are very effective inhibitors of carbohydrate enzymes and therefore could be used as safer hypoglycemic agents. (7)
A study on the management of malnutrition showed that Fresh bee pollen which contains a number of nutritional substances that are important for malnourished people found that animal test subjects with fresh bee pollen diets showed a significant increase in muscle mass and concluded that the improvement in both muscle mass and metabolism in old, undernourished test subjects when fed with a monofloral bee pollen. (8)
Bee Pollen and Its Potential Health Benefits
Food these days is not just taken to satisfy hunger and provide nutrition from humans. People nowadays also want to eat food in order to prevent any nutrition related diseases. The term “functional food” describes a food that has an additional role in the promotion of health or disease prevention. (9) Other examples are the so called superfoods such as chia seeds, flax seeds, kiwis, berries, pistachio nuts, kale and many others are eaten not only to provide sustenance or because they taste good but because they contain additional ingredients like vitamins, minerals, probiotics that increases the benefits humans can derive from it.
People are coming around regarding the therapeutic purposes of Bee Pollen as an alternative drug. It is exotic enough to merit some form of curiosity but is also familiar enough for people to assume a certain level of safety that comes with ingesting something like honey. So far it has proven to be a valuable source of energy and nourishment. It’s health-enhancing value is expected due to the wide range of secondary plant metabolites (tocopherol, niacin, thiamin, biotin, and folic acid, polyphenols, carotenoid pigments, phytosterols) besides enzymes and coenzymes which are contained in bee pollen. (10)
Bee pollen is used in the api therapeutic treatment as it demonstrates a series of actions such as antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulating, and local analgesic and also facilitates the granulation process of the burn wound healing. It hosts a number of possible benefits. (11)
There are several promising reports on the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticariogenic, antibacterial, anti-fungicidal, hepatoprotective, anti-atherosclerotic, and immune enhancing potential but they still require long term study. There seems to be a great potential as well as scientific and popular interest. (12)
Bee pollen has been used medically in prostatitis, bleeding stomach ulcers and some infectious diseases. But because some pollen species cause an allergic reaction to some individuals, individual sensitivities must be tested before pollen is used as a treatment or a supplementary food. (13)
The ethanol extract of bee pollen indicate anti-inflammatory effects and a study has concluded that this bee pollen would be beneficial not only as a dietary supplement but also as a functional food. (14)
Another study has concluded that in principle, it can unequivocally recommend bee pollen as a valuable dietary supplement. Although the bee-pollen components have potential bioactive and therapeutic properties, extensive research is required before bee pollen can be used in therapy. (15)
Other animal studies show that bee pollen antioxidants safeguard the liver against damage from several toxic substances, including drug overdoses.A study found that certain bee pollen extracts could reduce teh damage of liver and kidney caused by Cisplatin (a widely-known cancer cure which may cause damage to the liver and kidney) by reducing the level of oxidative stress and therefore improving the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic capacity of the body. (16)
Bee pollen is within the neighborhood of what is familiar to everyone. Everyone already knows how good honey is, so one might ask “why shouldn’t Bee Pollen be any different?” Unlike other health supplements, it is not a rare and undiscovered plant grown only in certain climes. As such, this level of familiarity is something that could lead consumers to ignoring any health risks that may come with the use or ingestion of Bee Pollen as a health supplement.
What is Bee Pollen Made of?
Bee Pollen is made of less than 1% Carotenoids, 0.6% Vitamins and Minerals, 1.6% Polyphenols, 5.1% Lipids, 10.4% Amino Acids, 22.7% Proteins, and 30.8 Carbohydrates. (17)
A problem that arises when discussing the actual components of Bee Pollen is its variability. The main difficulty for the use of bee pollen in therapy lies in the wide variation of its composition, and thus of its biological activity, depending on its botanical origin. Its botanical origin where it is made, its environment, the flora available can all impact the chemical composition of bee pollen as well as any allergic reactions it may cause to prospective users.
This is why it is important to distinguish between Multifloral bee pollen and Monofloral bee pollen. Monofloral bee pollen is produced by bees with access to only one type of flower. Multiflora bee pollen is when bees have access to different types of flowers, plants or trees. Studies have found variations in terms of composition in different monofloral bee pollens from different geographic and climatic areas.
How is It Made?
Bee pollen is made by bees, of course. These bees collect pollen from plant anthers and mix it with a dose of the secretion from their salivary glands. After which they are placed in specific baskets.
Field bees collect and transport the bee pollen into the hive. In the hive, the collected pollen, damp with saliva and fragmented by worker bees are packed in honeycomb cells. The surface of the collected pollen is covered with a thin layer of honey and wax. This creates bee bread which undergoes fermentation and is preserved due to lactic acid. This bee bread forms the basic protein source for the entire colony. And is the source for nutritional and mineral substances for the royal jelly that would be produced by worker bees. (18)
How is it Consumed?
Bee pollen is taken orally and is said to be suitable for children and adults, with a dose ranging from 3-5 teaspoons for adults and 1-2 teaspoons for children, each teaspoon being 7.5 grams of pollen. Smaller doses are recommended for those with chronic ailments.
When the pollen reaches the gastrointestinal tract, the grains swell up due to the absorption of water and the activation of the enzymes, they are diffused in the acid medium of the stomach and break down and then undergo absorption. (19)
An important concern for those taking Bee Pollen weight loss products is safety. Given how varied pollen is and the seriousness of the allergic reaction. A case of life-threatening anaphylaxis after ingesting bee pollen was reported in a patient with no history of allergies. (20)
Because respiratory allergies are generally caused by anemophilous plants, rather than entomophilous plants, the presence of airborne pollen in bee pollen supplements may contribute to the risk of allergic reaction, particularly if the bee pollen contains a substantial amount of airborne pollen to which an individual is sensitized. (21)
Although bee pollen is marketed as a natural health supplement, it has the potential to cause substantial allergic reactions when ingested by patients with pollen allergy. Often, skin tests showing reactivity to common airborne pollen correlates with reactivity to bee pollen. Health care providers should be aware of the potential for reaction, and patients with pollen allergy should be advised of the potential risk when consuming these products — it is not known who will have an allergic reaction upon ingesting bee pollen products.
Unfortunately some products have been involved in controversy. Supplements that claimed to contain the benefit of Bee Pollen were found to have contained hidden drugs like Sibutramine. Asset bee pollen is an example. Sibutramine is a controlled substance that was removed from the market in 2010 for safety reasons. Some of these involve the fact that it has been known to substantially increase, causing a spike in the blood pressure and pulse rate in some patients and therefore poses a significant risk for patience with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia and stroke. This kind of controversy may have harmed the public perception of Bee Pollen as viable supplement. (22)
A different drug, “Zi Xiu Tang Bee Pollen Capsules,” a product that was marketed as a weight loss and body reshaping supplement was found to have contained at least one harmful active ingredient that was not listed on the product’s label. The USFDA warned consumers not to use the product as it is considered to be tainted. Having tested multiple samples of the product from various distributors in the US. The FDA found both Sibutramine, and Phenolphthalein in the drug.
Both Sibutramine, a controlled substance that has been known to increase blood pressure substantially and could therefore pose a risk to those with existing heart conditions and Phenolphthalein, which is not a listed ingredient and not an approved active ingredient in the US with several studies indicating that it presents a cancer-causing risk.
The FDA was prompted to investigate after receiving dozens of adverse event reports including cardiac issues such as aheart palpitations, tachycardia, chest pain , anxiety, insomnia, increased blood pressure and seizure. Carol Bennett, then acting director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Drug evaluation and research said that “Products that contain hidden dangerous ingredient pose a real danger to consumers.” (23)
Another reason to tread carefully is the fact that Bee pollen contains various amounts and kinds of pollen which may belong to various allergenic families of plants. This is not something a pollen allergic individual would like to take given the clear issue that ingesting bee pollen would immediately subject the user into a variety of different pollen sources, some they may continue to experience allergies with. (24)
The Controversy Behind Studies on Bee Pollen
The problem with the scientific studies regarding bee pollen weight loss products is that their components would vary wildly because the flora and fauna would be different from each region, each species, each country or continent. There is no “one kind” of bee pollen because each sample is affected by regional differences. For example, a study conducted comparing Italian, Columbian and Spanish bee pollen Samples found that the total lipid contents were higher for Spanish and COlombian Pollens than the Italian, With each set of samples being found rich in different types of fatty acids. The study also found 39 different polyphenols with different dominant compounds in all the samples analyzed. (25) All this to say that there is a wide variability in Bee Pollen composition depending on where the bees are and what flowers, plants, food sources and climates they are in.
Though the harvest of monofloral pollen is possible, for the time being it is a relatively rare specialty. Another possibility of having more standardized bee pollen is to mix different pollen types to obtain a constant composition, and thus also consistent biological activity. (26)
There is a problem of simple consistency in order to find a more reliable scientific basis to ground any claims of fat loss or weight loss regarding the ingestion of Bee Pollen. For this purpose, biological parameters like antioxidant activity and vitamin content should be included in a future bee pollen standard. Monofloral or standardized bee pollen should be tested in future biological and clinical studies. The biological and pharmacological properties of the monofloral pollen types should be determined and the biologically active substances identified. Then pollen types with optimal pharmacological properties can be evaluated for human therapy. (27)
Although there have been some efforts to create quality criteria standards for future research regarding bee pollen. (28)
In conclusion, there is some quantifiable evidence to show the benefits of the consumption of bee pollen, not just in general health but specifically as a supplement to improve weight loss. Its benefits extend not just to weight loss and proper nutrition but to a myriad of other benefits.
There are some important caveats to keep in mind before choosing what bee pollen supplement to take. A priority consideration would be whether or not you would be susceptible to an allergic reaction. If so, choosing monofloral bee pollen weight loss products will likely be more beneficial to avoid allergic reactions or any other adverse events. If you have no allergies, you’ll have more options to choose from.
Aside from allergic reactions, it is important to keep in mind that though bee pollen has been studies for more than a few decades now, the health benefits have been tested and significant differences have been found between control and test groups, there are still a lot of differences to account for in terms quality, source, geographical location, climate and flora available, there is a lot of variation and you may need to do more specific research. Producers should always watch out for a tainted bee.
Lastly, the fact that there have been supplement manufacturers who include either controlled or banned unlisted ingredients in bee pollen supplements are a great cause for concern. It casts a shadow as to the efficacy of the product itself and poses a question of safety of the product for human consumption. Consult health care professionals.
Remember to buy from reputable manufacturers and sellers who provide you with adequate information before you ingest any supplement.