What is MGO in Manuka Honey?

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By Sunil Pinnamaneni

updated 4 months ago

The major anti-bacterial component in Mānuka honey is Methylglyoxal (MGO) which is a naturally occurring chemical compound that is found in Mānuka honey.  It is found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities. The higher the MGO levels the more anti-bacterial the honey is.

The leptospermum scoparium, also called tea tree of Mānuka tree grows uncultivated throughout the New Zealand landscape. Due to the difficulties of finding high-density Mānuka trees in nature the supply of high-grade Mānuka honey is low and the worldwide demand is high. MGO in these quantities is unique to honey from the Mānuka flowers. It has beneficial properties that are known around the world and has been used by Māori people of Aotearoa for centuries.

For centuries, honey has been known to have broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, and has been used to treat a variety of ailments. This medicinal value, which is exhibited by many types of honey, is believed to come from features such as honey’s acidity (low pH), high sugar concentration, and the presence of bacteriostatic and bactericidal compounds such as hydrogen peroxide, antioxidants, lysozyme, polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and bee peptides. These features are sometimes collectively referred to as honey’s ‘peroxide’ activity. Certain honeys derived from the New Zealand Manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) have additional antimicrobial activity, above and beyond what is contributed by the above features. For a number of years, the cause of this ‘non-peroxide activity’ (NPA) wasn’t well understood and the term ‘Unique Manuka Factor’ (UMF®) was adopted. Then, in 2006, scientists in Germany published research showing that Manuka honey’s ‘non-peroxide’ antimicrobial activity (NPA) was closely related to the presence of the compound methylglyoxal (MG). The relationship between MG levels and NPA in New Zealand manuka honey was further demonstrated by researchers at Waikato University in a paper that they published in 2008.

In Mānuka honey, MGO forms during the maturation of our honey from the conversion of another compound dihydroxyacetone (DHA). It's the magic component that is only found in the nectar of Mānuka flowers.

MGO UMF Manuka Honey New Zealand

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