We have known for some time now that the fate of humans and bees is interwoven; Bees pollinate most of our food plants, 71 of 100 crops that account for 90% of all our food, including apples and berries. Bee dying has decimated much of the bee population, threatening our food supply. However, bee mortality also poses a threat to another important product: our mead.
Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and once praised by the Vikings as a drink of the gods because it was their first defense against the invisible specter of the disease that befell even the most powerful warriors.
New research indicates that the legendary qualities of mead are much more than just a fairy tale – an important finding as the antibiotics slowly run out of steam. Other previous studies have found that honey, especially manuka honey, may contain antibiotic agents. It is unknown whether these results are related.
Tobias Olofsson, a microbiologist at Lund University in Sweden, spoke to Gizmodo: “A few hundred years ago, humans were only 30 or 40 years old. If you had something to prevent infection, you could live much longer. ”
According to him, fermented honey is just what our ancestors were looking for.
His research seems to show that the bacteria found in honey are able to fend off the most resistant diseases – over a decade of research into lactic acid bacteria found within honey bees has shown that they excrete antimicrobial chemicals.
In 2014, he published a study that showed that honey infused with 13 kinds of lactic acid bacteria could cure antibiotic-resistant diseases in horses. Even methicillin-resistant infection with Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (an infection that has been shown to be particularly resistant to antibiotics) has not matched the lactic acid bacteria cocktail in any way.
“It was really amazing to discover these bacteria,” said Olofsson. “Each of them has special defenses, and together they are very strong.”
“To produce honey from nectar, bees must lower the water content, which takes two to three days,” apparently honey bees choking the honey continuously over this period … or, more simply, vomit it. This allows their intestinal bacteria to penetrate the honey (“my intestinal bacteria permeate your drink, it will make you stronger,” does not work as an excuse for drunk people for some reason).
“Without the bacteria, honey in the hive would be spoiled within hours,” Olofsson said.
When honey reaches an 80% concentration, the high concentration of sugar naturally kills the lactic acid bacteria, which is why mature honey is used as a preservative. However, immature honey, which has a higher water concentration, is still full of it.
“Honey hunters went outside to get honey from trees, which still contained 25 to 30 percent water,” Olofsson said. “What they got was a living medicine.”
According to Olofsson, it was easy for early humans to turn honey into mead.
“To get all the honey out of the honeycomb, the honey producers put it in water,” Olofsson said. “After one or two days in it, you had an alcoholic drink.”
The conversion of honey enriched with lactic acid bacteria into alcohol had an additional side effect: “I found out that the lactic acid bacteria increase from 100 million per gram of honey per glass of mead to 100 billion,” he said.
His start-up company ConCellae is leading the way in developing a probiotic mead that has medicinal qualities – but without clinical trials, there is no way to say with certainty if he has really found the drink of the gods (or, more accurately , the vomit of bees and the secretions of yeast).
“We began learning ten years ago what kind of defenses the lactic acid bacteria use,” Olofsson said. “If you can find these substances in your blood when you’re drinking the mead, then we can truly confirm that we’ve found the most effective drink in the world.”
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