To make one kilogram of honey, these bees have to fly the equivalent of four times around the globe and collect nectar from thousands of flowers. People have always used honey, and not only for food. In folk medicine, honey has been used to treat diseases and alleviate colds. In ancient Egypt, honey was used on wounds. But what makes honey so good for us? Tobias Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez are researchers at Lund University. They have solved the mystery behind one of nature’s best functional foods. We are the first researchers in the world to reveal the secret of honey’s potency. Tobias’s interest in bees stems from summers spent in his grandfather’s garden. We did a research project in our free time when I was a PhD student at Lund University. My grandfather has kept bees for 78 years and I have grown up with honey and bees. I have helped him to extract the honey from the hives and to sell it in the village. I began when I was 17 and found it interesting so I have carried on ever since. I had heard that some types of honey were healthier than others so in the evenings we did research to see what was in the honey. No-one had done this before. What Tobias and Alejandra found were 13 types of lactic acid bacteria: previously unknown species. Lactic acid bacteria are good for the digestive system and help fight harmful bacteria. Where did you find the bacteria? At first we thought the bees had picked them up on flowers. In fact, the bacteria live in the bees’ honey stomachs. This is where the bees store nectar while they are out collecting. The bacteria live in the honey stomach and receive protection, food and warmth in return they form antibiotic-like substances to kill micro-organisms that spoil the honey. The bacteria also protect the bees and their larvae against disease. When the bees regurgitate the contents of their honey stomachs, the healthy bacteria are mixed in with the honey. But these bacteria are not left in the honey we buy in the shops. They are no longer there in the ripe honey. It contains no live lactic acid bacteria. There are actually big differences between different kinds of honey. Bacteria are present for a short time during honey production and then disappear. Thanks to Tobias and Alejandra’s research, we can all get the healthy bacteria. They have created a product called H13: H for honey and 13 for the types of bacteria. How is H13 better than normal honey? This is the first product of its kind to contain so many healthy bacteria. We can’t call the bacteria probiotic yet, but we are working towards this. The bacteria have developed with the bees over millions of years and the two complement one another. Their arsenal of active substances is so broad that we think H13 could be the best functional food ever recreated. All the bacteria are from grandfather’s bees. It was there we made the discovery and extracted the bacteria from the honey. I think my grandfather is quite proud. He is surprised that it has become so big and that his bees’ bacteria could be sold worldwide.