Agave Is Not As Healthy As You Think

Agave nectar exploded onto the food scene and quickly became one of the hottest alternative sweeteners for Americans.  In Mexico, where it is known as ‘honey water’, it has been used as sweetener for centuries. America has only recently jumped on the agave bandwagon.

Agave nectar is a concentrated sugar syrup derived from the juice of the agave plant. Blue agave, which has a very high carbohydrate content, is the most popular species of agave used to make the nectar. Agave is also the plant used to make the popular Mexican spirit, tequila.

But Is Agave Healthy?

New research suggests that agave may not be as good for you as originally thought.

But what about agave’s supposed health benefits?

The bottom line is that refined agave sweeteners are not inherently healthier than sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, or any other sweetener.  Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup.  It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally.  

agave

Agave nectar or syrup is as high as 90% concentrated fructose (a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruit), and the rest glucose. But the agave you can buy ranges from 90% to as little as 55% fructose (similar to high-fructose corn syrup), depending on the processing, says Roger Clemens, professor at the University of Southern California and a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists.

And concentrated fructose sweeteners don’t seem to offer any health advantages. In fact, a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that consuming fructose may be less healthy than consuming similar amounts of glucose. Study participants who consumed fructose were found to gain more unhealthy visceral fat, were more insulin-resistant, and were at greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

One of the most celebrated properties of agave is its profile on the glycemic index, a scale that measures how much various foods raise blood sugar levels. Agave ranks lower than many other sweeteners on the glycemic index. As a result, some manufacturers tout it as a “diabetic friendly” sugar. But, according to Clemens, “there is inconsistent evidence to assign a glycemic value to any food, and it should not be used as a green light for diabetics.”

In fact, the American Diabetes Association lists agave along with other sweeteners (table sugar, honey, brown sugar, molasses, fructose, maple sugar, and confectioner’s sugar) that should be limited in diabetic diets.

Bottom Line: Agave Is Suspect

  • Agave is widely marketed as safe for diabetics due to the low glycemic index.  Be wary to this statement.
  • Agave has an extremely high amount of fructose. The fructose content in agave can be higher than high fructose corn syrup!
  • Agave can lead to insulin resistance.
  • Agave can cause weight gain. It directly gets converted into fat and not secreting insulin, which supresses appetite, causing you to eat more.
  • Agave raises triglycerides, the fats in your blood. This puts you at risk for heart disease.

 

Source: WedMD “The Truth About Agave”

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