In addition, the researchers suggested that the absorption of calcium increased as the amount of honey taken was upped.
In the study, rats were either given a dose solely of calcium, or a dose of calcium plus 200 mg of honey, 500 mg of honey, 800 mg of honey, 800 mg of a glucose fructose mixture made to resemble honey, 10.75 mg of raffinose, or 200 mg of raffinose.
The scientists, led by Dr. Berdine Martin of Purdue University, then measured the level of calcium absorption into the hind leg bones of the rats after two days. Compared to the control group, rats given 800 mg and 500 mg of honey showed a 33.6 percent and 25.5 percent increase in calcium absorption, respectively.
These findings led the researchers to conclude that that honey and its carbohydrate constituents, specifically glucose, fructose and raffinose, may enhance calcium absorption.
The funding for the study was provided by the Longmont, Colorado-based National Honey Board. Dr. Katherine Beals, nutrition consultant to the board, commented on the research: "Many adults struggle to get the recommended amounts of calcium in their daily diet. Although this study was done with rats, the preliminary results are very compelling. Of course we would have to replicate the experiment in a human sample to see if the same holds true for people."
Osteoporosis is second only to cardiovascular disease in terms of global healthcare burden, according to the World Health Organisation, and currently affects some 200 million people. The number of sufferers is however set to increase steadily with growing numbers of elderly living longer, and obesity adding extra strain on bones.
One of the key strategies for reducing the likelihood of developing low bone mass (and subsequent osteoporosis) is to consume the recommended amounts of calcium. It is also important that the calcium consumed be absorbed by the body. Dietary factors that have been shown to enhance the absorption of calcium include vitamin D and the sugars found in honey.
The study was presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting this month in San Diego.