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Honey revisited: a reappraisal of honey in pre-industrial diets

  • Karen A. Allsop (a1) and Janette Brand Miller (a1)
Abstract

In pre-industrial times, honey was the main source of concentrated sweetness in the diets of many peoples. There are no precise figures for per capita consumption during most periods in history because honey was part of either a hunter-gatherer or subsistence economy. Until now, historians and food writers have proposed that it was a scarce commodity available only to a wealthy few. We do know, however, that in a cash economy honey was sold in large units (gallons and even barrels) and it was present in such abundance that mead, made from honey, was a common alcoholic drink. A reappraisal of the evidence from the Stone Age, Antiquity, the Middle Ages and early Modern times suggests that ordinary people ate much larger quantities of honey than has previously been acknowledged. Intakes at various times during history may well have rivalled our current consumption of refined sugar. There are implications therefore for the role of sugar in modern diets. Refined sugar may not have displaced more nutrient-rich items from our present-day diets but only the nutritionally comparable food, honey.

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References
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British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
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