Well, strictly speaking it’s not beer, it’s mead. We have all heard about it and seen it being drunk in BBC historic dramas but what is it?
What is Mead?
Mead is an alcoholic drink made only from honey, yeast and water. It was regarded in previous cultures as the drink of the gods and the Vikings, Mayans and Egyptians believed its benefits ranged from better health right up to immortality if you drank it regularly enough! Scientists in Sweden are launching their own new mead which is based on a traditional recipe. What makes their Mead – Honey Hunter’s Elixir – different is that it uses honey containing 13 lactic acid bacteria and fermented wild yeast, both of which are found only in the stomach of bees.
Their research has shown that these bacteria have the ability to kill off human pathogens (harmful and bad bacteria) by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances. They even kill off bacteria that are resistant to traditional antibiotics and so the hope is that this mead could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
Researchers Tobias Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez said that mead has had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health. Previous research in 2005 Olofsson and Vasquez discovered that many beneficial bacteria reside within honeybees in a structure called the honey crop – the organ where honeybees collect nectar for honey production. In 2014, they showed that when these bacteria where mixed with honey it cured chronic infected wounds in horses that had proved resistant to traditional antibiotic treatment. They now sell this under the name H13. Vasquez now hopes to undertake further research to:-
- Measure whether the chemical compounds found in the drink can be detected in the blood stream i.e. to be certain that they have passed from the digestive system into the blood system to be distributed all over the body.
- To prove cause and effect – that the presence of these chemicals is the only reason for the improvement in the infections or prevention of infections. This is the same regime medications have to undergo before they are given the go ahead as a treatment.
Why is this Mead so different?
What makes Honey Hunter’s Elixir different from other types of modern mead drinks is that is uses all 13 beneficial honeybee lactic acid bacteria and the wild yeasts from honey that normally ferment mead spontaneously. According to the research team, commercial honey does not contain these bacteria as the honey and water mixture is sterilized before later adding industrial wine yeast, all other life in the honey, including wild yeast, is killed off. The researchers say the drink contains 100 billion of these 13 different living and collaborating lactic acid bacteria.
Olofsson said he believed mead could have been a historical equivalent to today’s antibiotics and they see Honey Hunter’s Elixir as a possible way of preventing infections.
If human trials are successful it could help doctors overturn the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria, in both First World countries and also in the developing world where fresh honey is more readily accessible (and ‘free’) compared to antibiotics.
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