The Journey from Nectar to Nutrient: How MGO Is Formed in Manuka Honey

The Journey from Nectar to Nutrient: How MGO Is Formed in Manuka Honey

Executive Summary:


Unveiling MGO Formation in Manuka Honey: A Natural Process

Manuka honey is a delicious, unique type of honey that garnishes attention for its exceptional taste, beautiful golden hue, and an assortment of nutritional benefits. While there are several parallels between Manuka honey and regular honey, Manuka honey has something more to offer: methylglyoxal (MGO). 

This liquid gold contains high concentrations of MGO—setting it apart from other honeys and contributing to its unique profile. So, in this article, we explore the wonders of Manuka honey and the intriguing mystery of MGO and its contributions. 


Nectar Collection: The First Step

The journey begins in the remote forests of New Zealand, where Manuka tea trees grow and flourish in abundance. This tea tree sets the stage for honey production, giving Manuka honey its remarkable MGO content. 

The Manuka tea tree and its surroundings play a significant role in the final product. The bees need access to an abundance of flowering Manuka tea trees to produce Manuka honey. In other words, hive placement is important.

Proper placement involves careful consideration of the geographical and botanical factors that can add to or detract from the honey. For example, if the bees gather nectar from other flowering bushes, plants, and trees, the resulting honey may not be as potent. So, to ensure the bees can do their best work in creating delicious, potent Manuka honey, careful and well-planned placement is essential. 

Once the hive is positioned, the bees begin their work, flitting about and harvesting sugary nectar from nearby flowering Manuka tea trees. 

They extract the nectar from each flower using their proboscis—a delicate, straw-like tongue. While they continue their quest for nectar and when transporting their collections to the hive, the bees store the honey in the first chamber of their stomach, called the proventriculus. Once they return to the hive, they’ll pass it along to house bees—which is where the honey-making process truly begins.


The Biochemical Transformation in the Hive

The house bees transport the honey through the hive, passing it from one bee to the next. This mouth-to-mouth transfer process helps reduce water levels in the nectar, leaving behind an ultra-sugary liquid. 

The water levels continue to drop, but the mouth-to-mouth passage isn’t quite enough to bring these levels low enough. So, to finish the task and bring the water level to below 20%, the bees deposit the nectar into the intricate honeycomb and fan it with their wings. 

Once the water levels dip below 20%, the nectar becomes honey. Bacteria can’t grow at this point, and the newly made honey is thick and sugary. Throughout the process of harvesting nectar and passing it through the hive, enzymatic activity is hard at work. 

While the honey is in the bee’s proventriculus, an enzyme called invertase begins to simplify the sucrose in the nectar. This process converts it into simpler glucose and fructose molecules while additional enzymes raise the nectar’s acidity. In turn, this kills bacteria, ensuring unwanted visitors can’t survive.

So, where does MGO come into the picture? This all starts with a nutrient called dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is naturally found in the nectar of the Manuka tea tree flower. From here, methylglyoxal (MGO) is formed when the DHA enzyme combines with other molecules. So, let’s take a closer look at MGO.


Understanding MGO (Methylglyoxal)

Methylglyoxal (MGO) is a naturally occurring compound found in high concentrations in Manuka honey. The level of MGO in Manuka honey is determined by the amount of DHA in the nectar and the enzymatic activity occurring in the hive. The higher the MGO concentration, the more potent the honey. 

MGO is responsible for Manuka honey’s antibacterial properties. In fact, the MGO content is part of why Manuka honey has long been a staple in ancient medicine. Plus, it makes Manuka honey an excellent addition to a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. 


Factors Influencing MGO Levels in Honey

Not all honey is created equally. While regular honey contains MGO, Manuka honey often contains much higher levels. However, these levels depend on various factors, including the location, weather, and Manuka variety. 

For instance, hives placed near a diverse range of flowering plants, including a handful of Manuka tea trees, will likely produce lower MGO honey. Yet, hives located with primarily only Manuka tea trees nearby will likely have a higher MGO content.


Manukora’s Approach to Maximizing MGO

At Manukora, we strive to produce outstanding Manuka honey with help from our hardworking bees. We ensure high MGO levels through carefully crafted beekeeping and honey harvesting practices that date back to the beginnings of our company. 

These core values resonate through everything we do, from careful placement of the hives in remote New Zealand forests to harvesting practices that leave ample honey for the hive’s survival. We focus on quality and natural processes, allowing the bees to do their thing with minimal interference to create top-tier honey that tastes as good as it looks. 

And if you’re ever unsure about MGO levels in your honey, go ahead and scan the QR code; this will tell you everything you need to know about the MGO levels and even the beekeeper who tended to your batch of honey.


MGO is the Superhero Nutrient in Manuka Honey

MGO is a staple in Manuka honey, setting it apart from other varieties. Overall, MGO is what makes Manuka honey the perfect addition to any healthy lifestyle. The truth is you may never taste something as delicious and unique as Manuka honey (and containing as many beneficial nutrients!). So, go ahead: Add a touch of sweet indulgence to a steaming cup of morning tea, a creamy yogurt and berry parfait, or a crispy slice of toast slathered in nut butter. Its beauty lies in its nature-made glory!




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