Lynne Chepulis and Nicola Starkey of the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, raised rats on diets containing either ten per cent honey, eight per cent sucrose or no sugar at all for 12 months.
The rats were two months old at the start of the trial, and were assessed every three months using tests designed to measure anxiety and spatial memory.
The results showed that honey-fed rats spent almost twice as much time in the open sections of an 'assessment maze', which the researchers say suggests that they were less anxious.
They were also more likely to spend time in new sections of a Y-shaped maze, suggesting that they knew where they had been before and had better spatial memory.
"Diets sweetened with honey may be beneficial in decreasing anxiety and improving memory during ageing," NewScientist.com quoted Starkey, as saying.
The researchers propose that honey may boost memory due to its antioxidant properties, which help to prevent free radicals damaging cells in the body.
The findings were presented at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour meeting at Newcastle University.