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The Real Story on the Health Properties of Bee Pollen

Bee Pollen - Nature's Vitamin?


Updated June 13, 2014

Natural bee pollen in ceramic bowl on concrete
Bill Noll/E+/Getty Images
If you listen to people make a wide range of claims about the health and anti-aging properties of bee pollen, bee pollen is the “perfect food," because it contains every single nutrient needed for human life. Hmm. A claim like that often falls under the “too good to be true, probably not true category.” Let’s see whether bee pollen stands up to scrutiny.

Nutritional Properties of Bee Pollen

First off, wow, it is really hard to get any information on bee pollen that is not from someone trying to sell you bee pollen. Most of the nutritional databases completely ignore bee pollen, not considering it a food at all. In fact, I couldn’t find anything on the actual nutritional content of bee pollen. Here is what the bee pollen selling companies claim: bee pollen is 40% protein and contains 22 amino acids as well as an assortment of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants.

My favorite claim on the bee pollen sites is that just 35 grams of bee pollen a day can sustain human life. That claim, of course, is pure bunk. If you only took in 35 grams of bee pollen a day, not only would you be very, very hungry, but you would also be pretty thirsty too.

UPDATE: a reader e-mailed in with the following information: From Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2005: “The results obtained for bee pollen had an average of 7.4% moisture, 20% proteins, 6% lipids, 2.2% ash, absence of vitamin C and beta-carotene and presence of total carotenoids.” So much for complete nutrition, huh?) - Thanks so much for the additional info!!.

UPDATE 2: The same reader also found information that some people are allergic to bee pollen - so be careful out there!

All of this is not to say that bee pollen doesn't have good vitamins and minerals and may be a good supplement to your diet to cover any nutritional gaps you may have. Perhaps, bee pollen is a kind of “nature’s vitamin,” but until I see some real research and profiles of the nutritional components of bee pollen, it seems easier and safer (and cheaper) to just take a regular vitamin.

Bee Pollen and Allergies

Another bee pollen claim is that by taking local bee pollen, you can expose your body to all the different pollens in the air. This way (again, according to bee pollen sellers), your body becomes desensitized to the season’s pollen and your allergies go away. On this claim, the FDA has specifically cracked down on bee pollen labeling, because there really isn’t enough evidence to say that bee pollen prevents allergies. So we do have some evidence that the bee pollen folks tend to overdo it when it comes to talking about the health benefits of bee pollen.

The Bottom Line About Bee Pollen and Health

At best, bee pollen could be an alternative to your daily vitamin, but the evidence isn’t there yet. All the immune boasting, cancer-fighting claims of bee pollen are centered on the vitamins and minerals found in it. You can get these vitamins and minerals from multiple sources, not just from bee pollen. I would like nothing more than to think that nature provides us with a vitamin out there, but so far the proof just isn’t there.

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