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Royal jelly

Royal jelly is a honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of the larvae. It is secreted from the hypopharyngeal glands in the heads of young workers and used (among other substances) to feed all of the larvae in the colony, including those destined to become workers. If a queen is needed, a larva is chosen and will receive only royal jelly — and in large quantities — as its food source for the first four days of its growth, and this rapid, early feeding triggers the development of queen morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs. Some commercial royal jelly suppliers disseminate misinformation such as "Only queen larvae and adult queens are fed royal jelly". All larvae in a colony are fed royal jelly, and adult bees do not consume it at all.

Cultivation

Royal jelly is produced by stimulating colonies with movable frame hives to produce queen bees. Royal jelly is collected from each individual queen cell when the queen larvae are about four days old. It is collected from queen cells because these are the only cells in which large amounts are deposited; when royal jelly is fed to worker larvae, it is fed directly to them, and they consume it as it is produced, while the cells of queen larvae are "stocked" with royal jelly much faster than the larvae can consume it. Therefore, only in queen cells is the harvest of royal jelly practical.

A well-managed hive during a season of 5–6 months can produce approximately 500 g of royal jelly. Since the product is perishable, producers must have immediate access to proper cold storage (e.g., a household refrigerator or freezer) in which the royal jelly is stored until it is sold or conveyed to a collection centre. Sometimes honey or beeswax are added to the royal jelly, supposedly to aid in preservation.

Composition

People collect and sell royal jelly as a dietary supplement, claiming various health benefits because of components like B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). The overall composition of royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% crude protein (including small amounts of many different amino acids), and 11% simple sugars, also including a relatively high amount (5%) of fatty acids. It also contains many trace minerals, some enzymes, antibacterial and antibiotic components, and trace amounts of vitamin C. Contrary to claims by many of those promoting its use, vitamins A, D, and E are completely absent from royal jelly.

Uses and side effects

Royal jelly has been reported as a possible immunomodulatory agent in Graves' disease. It has also been reported to stimulate the growth of glial cells and neural stem cells in the brain, Independent research has already disproved, or is needed to confirm or disprove, several other purported health claims, such as reports of hormonal activity (unknown in the bees themselves, the most abundant sterol is cholesterol, which is not itself a hormone). To date, there is only preliminary evidence that it may have some cholesterol-lowering effects, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, and antibiotic effects, though the last three of these effects are unlikely to be realized if ingested (destruction of the substances involved through digestion, or neutralization via changes in pH). There are also some preliminary experiments (on cells and lab animals) in which royal jelly may have some benefit regarding certain other diseases, although there is no solid evidence for those claims, and further experimentation and validation is urgently needed. It can also be found in various beauty products.

It is widely recognized that royal jelly may cause allergies in humans ranging from hives, asthma, to even fatal anaphylaxis The incidence of allergic side effect in people that consume royal jelly is unknown, however it has been suggested that the risk of having an allergy to royal jelly is higher if the people have some known previous allergies.

Sources

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  • Braines, L.N. (1962). Royal jelly III. Inform. Bull. Inst. Pchelovodstva, 40
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  • De Belfever, B. (1958) La gelee royale des abeilles. Maloine, Paris.
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  • Giordani, G. (1961). [Effect of royal jelly on chickens.] Avicoltura 30 (6): 114-120
  • Hattori N, Nomoto H, Fukumitsu H, Mishima S, Furukawa S. [Royal jelly and its unique fatty acid, 10-hydroxy-trans-2-decenoic acid, promote neurogenesis by neural stem/progenitor cells in vitro.] Biomed Res. 2007 Oct;28(5):261-6.
  • Hashimoto M, Kanda M, Ikeno K, Hayashi Y, Nakamura T, Ogawa Y, Fukumitsu H, Nomoto H, Furukawa S. (2005) Oral administration of royal jelly facilitates mRNA expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor and neurofilament H in the hippocampus of the adult mouse brain. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2005 Apr;69(4):800-5.
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  • Lercker, G., Vecchi, M.A., Sabatini, A.G. and Nanetti, A. 1984. Controllo chimicoanalitico della gelatina reale. Riv. Merceol. 23 (1): 83-94.
  • Lercker, G., Savioli, S., Vecchi, M.A., Sabatini, A.G., Nanetti, A. and Piana, L. (1986) Carbohydrate Determination of Royal Jelly by High Resolution Gas Chromatography (HRGC). Food Chemistry, 19: 255-264.
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References

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