Royal jelly is considered to be the most valuable bee product with an extraordinarily complex composition and not yet fully discovered mechanisms of action. However, its positive effects on humans, which at the end of last year also received scientific confirmation by a clinical study conducted in Slovenia, are well known. The study was conducted by Medex with the University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences. After 8 weeks of consuming 2000 mg of royal jelly in capsules, a reduction of inflammation processes, increase of the level of antioxidants, reduction of total cholesterol and several hormones which reduce appetite were detected in the bodies of test subjects.
What is royal jelly?
Royal jelly is produced by young nurse bees, aged 5 to 12 days, which are not yet able to fly. Royal jelly is the secretion of their hypopharyngeal glands that are located in the bee’s head right next to the brain, and are used to feed their brood and bee queen for the first three days.
After the third day, only the queen bee larva, which is its only source of food until the end of its life, is being fed with royal jelly. The queen bee is therefore able to develop into a larger and only fertile bee in the beehive, having a life span that is 10-times longer than a worker bee.
Royal jelly composition and effects
Its composition is so complex that scientists have not yet been able to completely define it. Royal jelly contains 66.05% of water, 12.49% of proteins, 5.46% of fat, minerals, and is also rich with B-complex vitamins and vitamins C, D and E. Active compounds of royal jelly are 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (10-HDA), bioactive peptides and glycoproteins (MRJP, apisimin, jeleins, rojalactin), AMP N1 oxid, acetylcholine, polyphenols and hormones.
Up until now, the positive pharmacological effects of royal jelly have been proven by numerous scientific studies which among other things have shown that royal jelly contributes to vasodilatation and lowering blood pressure, and that it has an anti-oxidative, antimicrobial, anti-tumour effect, an anti-inflammation activity and slows down inflammatory cytokines.
Most positive effects of royal jelly were proven in “in vitro” and “in vivo” models, and only rare studies have researched effects on people.
Newest study on people
In order to confirm if consuming royal jelly has an effect on pro- and anti-inflammatory factors and confirm or reject the aforementioned effects of royal jelly from “in vitro” studies on people too, researchers from the University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences – Zala Jenko Pražnikar, Ana Petelin, Saša Kenig, Maša Černelič Bizjak, and from Medex – Rok Kopinč, Matjaž Deželak – have conducted an interesting clinical trial, in which they included healthy asymptomatic individuals, as part of the public tender “Creative path to knowledge 2017 – 2020”, co-financed by the European Social Fund of the European Union and by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Slovenia.
More specifically, they have included in the trial individuals aged between 25 and 60 with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 23 kg/m2, who did not have any symptoms or were not diagnosed with illnesses, did not take any medicines or food supplements, and their body mass did not fluctuate in the last three months. With these preconditions they wanted to exclude as many external factors that could impact the measurement of the selected parameters independent of the royal jelly.
How is overweight connected to chronic inflammation
People with BMI above 25 kg/m2 usually have the first signs of low-level chronic inflammation due to increased body fat and thus an increased risk of developing diseases connected to systemic inflammation. Adipose tissue is not only an energy reserve, but researches are increasingly showing that adipose tissue works as an endocrine gland (gland with internal secretion) and that it is involved in immunity processes in the body and actively cooperates in regulating systemic homeostasis.
In increasing adipose tissue the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory processes is disrupted. More and more cytokines are formed and less anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as adiponectin.
Inflammatory cytokines are released into the blood flow and contribute to the development of systemic inflammation which negatively impacts various organs. An example is the systemic resistance to leptin (a hormone that regulates “satiety”) and insulin, liver and muscle tissue inflammation, inflammation of blood vessels and pancreas. A low degree of systemic inflammation is some sort of pre-stage that may lead to various disease conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis, liver fatness and certain other diseases.
Course of the study and proven positive effects
The participants in the study were randomly divided into two groups: one group was placebo-controlled, whereas the other consumed the equivalent of 2000 mg of fresh royal jelly in the form of two capsules per day, one in the morning and one in the evening, on an empty stomach, half an hour before a meal. The test subjects were not aware of what they were taking, placebo or royal jelly (capsules could not be distinguished one from the other), and the expert staff, which managed and participated in the research, did not know that as well.
This is called a double-blind trial, which is important for the impartiality of the results and for excluding placebo effects. Anthropometric measurements and blood analyses were carried out before the start of the trial, after 4 and after 8 weeks of consumption, then the test subjects had to stop taking the capsules and researchers carried out the measurements in the 10th week again, in order to verify the possible effects of royal jelly even after the test subjects stopped taking it.
They have found out that in the group that took royal jelly there was a statistically characteristic reduction of total cholesterol, namely by 8% in 8 weeks. A 21% reduction of C-reactive protein (a systemic inflammation protein) was also detected.
It is worth noting that the decrease in C-reactive protein is of extreme importance, since in chronic inflammation, as a consequence of obesity, it is the key connection between obesity and the development of a metabolic syndrome (meta-inflammation). In addition to this, the inflammation of fat is at the forefront, since inflammation due to obesity also involves numerous other organs. In the group taking royal jelly the amount of adiponectin increased by 34% in 8 weeks.
Adiponectin has an anti-inflammatory role and is involved in metabolic regulation – it stimulates β-oxidation in skeletal muscles and glucose uptake. Even though it secretes from fat, the concentration of adiponectin decreases in cases of obesity. Furthermore, a 35% increase of bilirubin (product of heme, an endogenous antioxidant that has an anti-inflammatory effect) was also recorded.
A 17% increase in leptin was recorded in the group taking royal jelly. Leptin is a hormone that is formed in fat cells and regulates hunger and satiety. It has an important role in regulating energy acceptance and consumption, particularly in regulating appetite. As a result it acts primarily on the hypothalamus area that controls appetite. The absence of leptin (or its receptors) or resistance to leptin may cause an uncontrolled intake of food which causes obesity.
Particularly encouraging is also the fact that all effects, with the exception of bilirubin, were measured for 2 weeks after the test subjects stopped taking royal jelly, which is indicative of continued action.
Researchers at the University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences and Medex concluded that daily consumption of 2000 mg of royal jelly in only 8 weeks had a positive impact on:
lipid profile (mainly on decreasing total cholesterol);
systemic inflammation, through decreasing C-reactive protein and increasing adiponectin;
total anti-oxidative potential in blood through increasing bilirubin, endogenous antioxidant; and
appetite through increasing leptin – hormone that induces a feeling of satiety.
These truly exceptional discoveries will surely benefit most, since they actually prove that royal jelly regulates the state of the body and is more than just a natural shield of our immune system with these effects.
1. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To establish if taking royal jelly has an effect on pro- or anti-inflammatory factors, confirm or reject the aforementioned effects of royal jelly from an “in vitro” study on people.