Royal jelly has long been sold and is heavily advertised and marketed as a dietary supplement and cure all alternative medicine. Infomercials abound and it’s very difficult to see through all the smoke and mirrors. However, almost all of the ‘evidence’ I have found to support it’s many claimed health benefits is derived and extrapolated from animal studies and test tube based research; from poorly designed studies, published in obscure journals and mainly conducted outside Europe or the US. In fact, most of the ‘research’ into royal jelly originates from just two sources, both in Japan: The Honeybee Science Research Center at Tamagawa University, Tokyo (ranked the 4368th university in the world (2016)) and The Yamada Bee Company.

There is almost no research that shows any benefit of royal jelly in humans. The only published human study I could identify was, a Japanese, one that found that a six-month ingestion of royal jelly (3000 mg/d, in 61 people) improved: the production of new red blood cells, glucose tolerance and mental health – but very slightly; and found no effects on bone health, immunity, serum cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin or sex hormone levels.

Both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration came to the same conclusion I did; that “the current evidence does not support the claim of health benefits for Royal Jelly”. The EFSA, in 2011, found that there was “no evidence to suggest that royal jelly could boost the immune system or vitality”.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has taken legal action against companies that have used unfounded claims of health benefits to market royal jelly products. In the UK, Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have belatedly begun to take action to prevent consumers from being mislead by unsubstantiated claims for the health benefits of royal jelly. This week (4th January 2017) for example, Medibee Ltd, a company that sells royal jelly and other bee products, were censured by the Advertising Standards Authority and told to amened their advertising; “The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Medibee Ltd to remove claims to prevent, treat or cure human disease from their advertising. We also told them to remove unauthorised health claims, and general health claims”

It is therefore my view that the properties of royal jelly, a rather good name for what is essentially bee lavae (maggot) milk or bee spit, have been exaggerated, elevated and extrapolated far beyond any potential minor benefits it may provide. Cow’s milk, which has been much derided by the wellness lobby and healthanistas, has far greater and proven nutritional and health benefits for humans. So the message is this (and it’s getting boring); save your money, ignore the advertising hype and eat real food.