Health Benefits Of Bee Pollen

Are there any health benefits of bee pollen to humans? Or is it merely hype? Let’s take a look at some of the evidence and the claims made in relation to athletic performance, weight loss, nutrition, digestion, eye sight, and general aging, in various sources of information.

Assessing the claims about benefits of bee pollen to human health

1. Athletic Performance

Some of the claimed health benefits of bee pollen include the improvement of athletic performance. This benefit may be of interest to you if you are engaged in sports.

However, there are studies that throw doubt on this claim:

  • A six-week study of 20 swimmers published in 1982 found no performance difference when swimmers took bee pollen. (ref: Maughan RJ, Evans SP. Effects of pollen extract upon adolescent swimmers. British Journal of Sports Medicine 16:142-145, 1982 [4])

  • A study from the 1970’s looking at the impact of bee pollen on swimmers and cross country runners, also found no improved performance for those who took the pollen (ref: Steben RE, Boudroux P. The effects of pollen and pollen extracts on selected blood factors and performance of athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 18:271-278, 1978).

2. Health Benefits in Weight Loss

I have read that because bee pollen is of high nutritional value, it is helpful to those wishing to lose weight, in order to replace empty calories during the process of weight loss - i.e. it provides nutritional support. 

Key points to note: 

Bee pollen won't help you lose weight

Providing 'nutritional support' is not actually the same as 'helping you to lose weight'.  In view of this, perhaps the key questions for anyone thinking of taking bee pollen whilst dieting are:

  • If you are seeking a nutritional support for weight loss, do you really need to purchase a costly supplement in the form of bee pollen, and could ordinary, inexpensive, low-calorie foods do the job? 
  • If you find this difficult, would it be less expensive to take a vitamin pill?

Conventional foods, fruit and vegetables can provide the same nutrients, less expensively

I decided to conduct a nutritional comparison between:

  • 100 grams bee pollen, 
  • 100 grams raw apple and 
  • 100 grams boiled kale.

Firstly, it should be noted that bee pollen is high in carbohydrate - not great if you are on a low carbs diet!  Secondly, it looks to me like fresh fruit and vegetables in a well balanced diet should give you all you need, with few calories. You can read more about this comparison on my page (opens a new window) describing nutritional content of Bee Pollen.

So, if you want to ensure you are not losing out on nutrients during weight loss, then probably it's best to:

    simply eat a balanced diet!

I have written about this issue elsewhere on my website - see this page specifically about bee pollen and weight loss, as it goes into greater detail. 

Interestingly, however, I saw some research looking at the used of apple cider vinegar, and I have further information about this on my page about the honey and apple cider vinegar diet!

3. Digestion

Another claim made is that bee pollen is beneficial, because it is digested quickly by the body. This may be true, but so what, there are many foods out there that are digested easily, and are inexpensive!

4. Eye Sight

Another of the proposed health benefits of bee pollen that I read about was in the prevention of age-related deterioration of eye sight.

I don’t know of any independent study, relating to bee pollen and human eye sight specifically, but if you discover one, please let me know through my contact page.

However, the evidence quoted for this claim appeared to be related to a study on spinach. The source of information stated that due to the lutein and zeaxanthin contained within spinach, then eating it had a protective effect against eye diseases. It also stated that eating a diet rich in vegetables containing lutein and zeaxanthin would similarly have a protective effect on the eye.

The writer seemed to imply that because bee pollen also contains these minerals, it would also offer the same protective health benefit for eye sight as spinach.

Whilst this may be the case, for me, it doesn’t really justify anyone spending their cash on bee pollen, or even the bees being robbed of it. What it does in my opinion, is provide further evidence as to why vegetables like spinach are good for your health, and again, why everyday vegetables should be incorporated into the diet.

5. General Aging

I am not so sure about the validity in the claims that the health benefits of bee pollen also extend to general aging. One such study quoted as evidence is by Qian B, Zang X, Liu X.: Effects of bee pollen on lipid peroxides and immune response in aging and malnourished mice. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 1990;15(5):301-3, 319.

The study is currently behind a paywall, and so I am not able to see exactly what the study claims.

However, any effects observed in mice would not necessarily be observed in humans.

If you read my other page on bee pollen & weight loss, you will have read why I am sceptical about making assumptions based on animal testing (as are many highly qualified medical doctors), but just in case, I’ll repeat them here:

    • The arthritis drug Vioxx killed up to 140,000 people after being ‘proven safe’ in animals, including monkeys.

    • 92% of new drugs successful in animal studies go on to fail in clinical trials, as at Northwick Park – sometimes injuring or killing volunteers and patients. Source:
  • Even tests on similar animal species can show startlingly different results.  For example, one study tested 392 chemicals, and found that whilst some were toxic for rats, they were not necessarily toxic for mice, and vice versa.

    (source: "Ranking Possible Carcinogenic Hazards", Bruce N Ames, Renae Magaw and Lois Swirsky Gold, [i]Science[/i], Vol 236, 1987, p271 at 275).

6. Other Benefits

A number of other claims are made about the health benefits of bee pollen, including for use in some cancers, use during the menopause, and some specific diseases. I have not yet been able to investigate them fully. If you have any evidence in this area, I would be grateful if you could forward it to me via my contact page, thank you.

Bee Pollen Nutrition
The nutritional content of bee pollen in comparison with 2 ordinary foods.

Bee Pollen & Weight Loss
Can Bee Pollen to this page exploring whether bee pollen aid weight loss?

What Is Bee Pollen?
What bee pollen is, and the different types of bee pollen.

Pollen Count Today
Do you suffer from hayfever?  Find your local pollen count.

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