We report here for the first time that the disaccharide trehalulose (1) (Fig. 1) is a major component of stingless bee honeys. Trehalulose is a naturally occurring isomer of sucrose, but has a much slower rate of release of monosaccharides into the bloodstream than sucrose7,8. This disaccharide is therefore highly beneficial in having both a low insulinemic index and low glycemic index9. Trehalulose is also known to be acariogenic10,11, and a highly active antioxidant12, and these properties may in no small way contribute to the reported beneficial health properties of stingless bee honey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7376065/
Both honey produced by honeybees (Apis mellifera) and honey produced by stingless bees (e.g., Melipona species) have similar basic chemical compositions, but there can be variations in taste, aroma, and minor chemical constituents due to differences in floral sources and environmental factors. Below are the main chemical constituents of raw honey from both honeybee and Melipona stingless bee sources:
- Sugars: Honey is primarily composed of sugars, with glucose and fructose being the most abundant. These sugars provide the sweetness in honey and also act as natural preservatives.
- Water: Honey contains varying amounts of water, typically ranging from 14% to 20%. The water content can affect the honey's shelf life and crystallization rate.
- Floral Nectar: The specific floral sources that bees forage on influence the flavor, color, and aroma of honey. Honey derived from different flowers can have distinct profiles in terms of taste and chemical composition.
- Enzymes: Bees add enzymes to nectar during the honey-making process. The primary enzyme is invertase, which converts sucrose into glucose and fructose. Other enzymes contribute to honey's antimicrobial properties.
- Acids: Honey is slightly acidic, with its pH typically ranging from 3.2 to 4.5. Acids like gluconic acid, citric acid, and acetic acid are naturally present.
- Proteins and Amino Acids: Honey contains small amounts of proteins and free amino acids. These compounds contribute to honey's nutritional value.
- Vitamins: Honey contains trace amounts of various vitamins, including B vitamins (e.g., niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid), vitamin C, and vitamin K.
- Minerals: Honey contains trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
- Phenolic Compounds: Honey contains a variety of phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant properties. These compounds may contribute to the potential health benefits of honey.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are a subgroup of phenolic compounds found in honey, and they also contribute to its antioxidant capacity.
- Polyphenols: Honey contains polyphenols, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have been studied for their potential health benefits.
- Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF): HMF is a compound that can form in honey over time and with exposure to heat. High levels of HMF may indicate honey aging or adulteration.
It's important to note that the specific chemical composition of honey can vary based on factors like floral sources, geographic location, and bee species. Melipona honey, produced by stingless bees, can have unique characteristics influenced by the flora available to these bees. For the most accurate and detailed information about the chemical constituents of a particular honey, it is advisable to consult laboratory analyses or local beekeepers and experts who are knowledgeable about the specific honey source in question.
Chemical constituents of honey bee and stingless bee honey
Honey contains approximately 200 compounds, such as vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and minerals, with the major content being water and sugars. Sugars comprise approximately 95–99% of honey's dry matter. Of the sugars in honey, fructose is the most prevalent, comprising approximately 32–38% of its total sugar. In addition to fructose and glucose, several other disaccharides and oligosaccharides, including sucrose, maltose, maltotriose and panose, can be found. Organic acids, minerals and trace elements such as calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, iron, zinc, copper and manganese are other components present.