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The Health Benefits of Pollen

Pollen as trapped by beekeepers from honey bee colonies is a product collected from many, often dozens, of species of plants visited by the bees. This feature enhances the nutritional balance of the pollen, but also means that bee pollen is not a uniform product, rather it varies somewhat from sample to sample. This variability complicates the analysis of pollen chemistry and requires that statements vis-a-vis pollen be given as averages or as values for a specific species of pollen. All chemical and nutritional analyses here will be given as means derived from large numbers of literature reports that appear reliable.

In general, compared to many standard human foods, pollen is rich in protein, low in fat, and possesses a wealth of minerals and vitamins. No obvious human nutritional deficiencies are present in pollen with the possible exceptions of vitamin B12 and the fat soluble vitamins D and K. In the case of B12, the vitamin is not usually in shortage because the body usually retains a multi-year reserve. Shortage only occurs in cases of defective body recycling (pernicious anemia) and is particularly needed for pregnant women who have metabolic deficiencies, or are strict vegetarians.

Vitamin D is somewhat of a misnomer, as it is not truly a vitamin. Humans can synthesize the vitamin from 7-dehydrocholesterol if they are exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin K is a minor vitamin whose sole role is to aid in blood clotting and which is produced naturally by intestinal bacteria. Pollen has not been analyzed in detail for some of the trace elements such as boron, chromium, molybdenum, iodine, fluoride, and selenium, but it would not be surprising if it also contained adequate quantities of these elements.

One means to evaluate the nutritional content of pollen is to compare the levels of dietary nutrients in good wholesome food to those in pollen. Pollen ranks number 1 in quantity for four of the nutrients, number 2 for another four, and ranked lower only for vitamin C, sodium, and fat. Overall, pollen has a higher ranking than any of the compared foods, even tomatoes and cabbage which are considered to be classic examples of the most nutritious foods available. In terms of protein, pollen ranked number 2, and above beef. The overall conclusion is that pollen is a food source par excellence that is probably not exceeded by any other food. The one caveat is that pollen is much too expensive to be considered a primary food and, indeed, consumption of large quantities can cause adverse effects (4). However, this does not preclude pollen from being an excellent food supplement which can enhance the health and well-being of individuals, especially those who otherwise might have an unbalanced diet.

Pollen or pollen products have been shown to have several beneficial applications for human use. Pollen has been successfully used for treatment of some cases of benign prostatitis and for oral desensitization of children who have pollen allergy. Bee pollen has been reported to assist in weight loss. Reports indicate that if you wish to reduce your weight, taking bee pollen 30 minutes before meals (on an empty stomach), aids in curbing appetite.
Bees gather pollen by visiting various flowers throughout the day.  This pollen is the essential protien building block of all healthy bee hives, being used to nourish larva, young bees, and as a basis for the production of royal jelly for queens. 

Here, a busy worker bee is approaching a flower to finish collecting pollen.  A worker bees hind legs contain "storage baskets" that are able to store a large quantity of pollen.  Once this bee has finished, she will return to her hive to deposit what she has collected, which will then be fed to the rest of the colony or stored for winter use.
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