Decoding chemical indexes of honey analysis

The most important approach in determining quality and originality of honey is the chemical analysis performed by chemists in advanced laboratories—not to mention that six different parameters are to be measured and analyzed afterwards. Each of these parameters–where the minimum and maximum of which are outlined and defined by ISIRI–conveys distinct concepts or implications. More importantly, proper understanding of such parameters, as described in following paragraph, surely plays a crucial role in determination of natural honey:

1- Reducing sugars before hydrolysis:

Fructose, glucose and maltose—where the minimum amount for each is defined to be 65 grams in 100 grams of sample–are a number of reducing sugars before hydrolysis .
Explanation: such kinds of honey which contain more than 70% of reducing sugars tend to denote higher levels of being natural and high-quality.
Such index shows:
a- The process has been perfectly performed by honeybees—which can be called as ripe honey
b- Those varieties of honey which contains less than 68% percent of reducing sugar shows that the feeding process of honeybees has had amount of white sugar—which can be called as raw honey.
c- Interestingly, some varieties of mono-floral honey exclude such classification such as Sidr Honey or Orange-Blossom honey.

2- Sucrose:

Sucrose—naturally found in pollen–belongs to the group of disaccharide sugars and is reduced by an enzyme named invertase where fructose and glucose are results of such enzymatic process by which sucrose has been induced.
The acceptable amount of such sugar in honey–defined by ISIRI and international standard organizations–is 5 percent. In case of larger percentages, following reasons can be referred:
a- Feeding with white-sugar-based syrups (adulterated honey)
b- Raw honey
c- A number of notable honeys.
Honeybees devote all their efforts both to invert this disaccharide sugar into glucose and fructose and to bring the amount of such sugar to a range from 1 or 2 to 5 percent.
Please be noted that the amount of sucrose in honeys is more than 5 percent if bees are fed with white sugar while there are some exceptions to this case. Namely, the amount of sucrose is 8 to 13 if examined by Fehling’s test but in case of HPLC, smaller amounts of such sugar is resulted. In most of natural honeys, amount of sucrose is 5 percent.
– Sucrose is one of main indexes used to differentiate natural from unnatural honey—fed with white sugar.
– In enzymatic process by invertase, sucrose is inverted into fructose and glucose.
– As a result of time or of storage, sucrose is inverted into fructose and glucose.
– Sucrose—if not considered with other indexed—cannot be a proper yardstick by which the price of honey can be ascertained.
This index demonstrates:
– How are honeybees fed?
– Are the processes done completely or not?

3- Fructose-Glucose Ratio (F/G)

– It is derived by dividing fructose by glucose.
– In most of honeys, the percentage of fructose is higher than glucose.
– The acceptable amount of this index—determined by ISIRI-is 0.9 percent but the results are mostly between 0.9 and 1.3.
– In cases of white-sugar-based honeys (adulterated honey), it is lower than 0.99—ranging from 0.85 to 0.88.
– To a large extent, it is by this index that we can determine the time of crystallization.
– In cases of higher F/G ratio, the duration of crystallization is longer (the rate of which is slower) and vice versa. This means that the higher the F/G ratio, the longer it takes longer to experience crystallization.
– Namely, in such varieties of honey as Acacia, Sage and Sidr, this index will be greater than 1.1 which conveys a message of slow crystallization.
– The higher the F/G ratio, the lower the glycemic index. As a result, this can be more useful for people with diabetes.
This index connotes:
a) How are bees fed?
b) Are the processes done completely or not?
c) How have the conditions and durations of crystallization been?
d) Is it possible for an individual with diabetes to use honey thoughtfully?

4- Diastase

– One of key enzymes in honey.
– It can originally be found in pollen, nectar and honeybees.
– The major activity of this enzyme is to degrade starch to starch to a mixture of the disaccharide maltose—or simpler sugars in short.
– Hypo-pharyngeal glands of honey bee workers and/or drones are responsible for producing diastase.
– The range is 8 to 30 percent in light honey.
– The range is 8 to 40 percent in dark honey.
– The range is 14 to 45 in honeydew.
– It is the index of freshness, quality and how raw honey is.
– In such honeys as Acacia and Clover, the range is from 3 to 8 percent.
– In white-sugar-based honey (adulterated honey), it is lower than 8 percent.
– Diastase is sensitive to heat and storage which means in cases of being exposed to excessive heat or being kept for long periods of time, the level of diastase will diminish.
– This enzyme is not therapeutically and/or nutritionally valuable.
– Even though honeys with high levels of diastase—due to abundancy of polyphenol compounds—are of higher value and worth, diastase itself holds no therapeutic or nutritional value. It is sometimes said that diastase decreases the size of epi-cardial adipose tissue—more commonly, the fat layer around the hear. However, this is scientifically discarded and only proven to be a simpler enzyme whose job is to catalyze the breakdown of starch to simpler sugars.
This index indicates:
– How are bees fed?
– Are the processes done completely or not?
– How have the conditions and durations of crystallization been?
In short, it can be said that this index somewhat shows the freshness and quality (ripeness) of the honey.

5- Proline

– Approximately, 26 different amino acids are determined to be in honey where the most crucially important of which is proline.
– Originally found in pollen, nectar and honeybees.
– Index of freshness or ripeness.
– The acceptable amount determined by standards is to be 180 mg/kg.
– In different natural honeys, the amount can differ from 300 to 1800 mg/kg.
– Proline is less sensitive to heat and storage comparing to enzyme which shows higher levels of sensitivity.
– Although there has been no maximum amount declared for proline, the amount is 2000mg/kg and normally, higher levels may not be accepted.
– Seeing that proline can originally be found in honeybees, the amount of proline is in direct correlation with the activity of bees in processing nectar–where simply means the more the processes, the higher the levels of proline.
– Since proline indicates levels of quality and purity, higher levels of such amino acid shows better quality and higher purity.
– Such index clarifies as follows:
– Are the processes done completely or not?
– It indicates the quality of honey and if the levels are high, honey is of more quality and purity.

6- Hydroxy-methyl-furfural (HMF)

– It is an intermediate substance produced as a result of Maillard reaction of fructose and glucose which occurs in acidic and high-temperature conditions.
– It shows the freshness of honey and its virginity of not experiencing any heat treatment.
– The acceptable amount by standard organizations is 40 mg/kg.
– It is less than 10 mg/kg in fresh raw honey.
– It is decreased as a result of storage and heat.
– It may be carcinogenic in higher levels.
– In aged and heated honey can exceed 1000 mg/kg.
– It is determined to be 80 mg/kg in tropical zones–which has been known exceptional by people worldwide–although the acceptable amount in Iran is 40 mg/kg.
– In industrially-made honeys, such index has exceeded 2400 mg/kg.
This index shows:
– Is honey natural?
– Has honey been treated with heat? If heated in process of filtration or storage, the number will be higher when examined in laboratory.
– It should be noted that this index is used in such various food products as dried fruits and jams where the amount of which has gone beyond 800 and sometimes reached 3000.


– Only advanced laboratories should examine honey.
– Color, Moisture Content, Odor and taste are of importance in quality of honey.
– Considering all indexes plays major role in determination of quality.
– Analysis and interpretation of results are to be accomplished by honey experts.
– Better heed must be paid to raw natural honey.