My affaire with agave nectar was passionate but short-lived. I discovered it while doing Weight Watchers, when I was looking for low-calorie sweeteners. I stopped using Splenda a long time ago. I currently use Stevia because I can tolerate the aftertaste. But inbetween those, I flirted with agave syrup. And agave syrup flirted back. It promised an all-natural satisfaction for my sweet tooth while being low-glycemic. It promised not to make me fat.
But why is this sweetener low-glycemic? It seemed like a contradiction! Too good to be true!
I follow the thoughts from all sorts of food camps. As a Weight Watcher Lifetime Member, I know quite well what the Good Health Guidelines are (which follow the national food plan), I follow a few raw vegan blogs just to see what’s happening over on that side of the river, I pay attention to the whole food community (the Price-Pottenger people and Michael Pollan) and I faithfully read my low-carb, primal and paleo diet blogs.
And here’s the thing, most food camps are decrying agave syrup!
Here’s a quote from one of my favourite whole food blogs:
The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.
Agave syrup isn’t natural.
Here’s a quote from a raw foods website I found:
Agave Syrup is advertised as “low glycemic” and marketed towards diabetics. It is true, that agave itself is low glycemic. [But] we have to consider why agave syrup is “low glycemic.” It is due to the unusually high concentration of fructose (90%) compared to the small amount of glucose (10%). Nowhere in nature does this ratio of fructose to glucose occur naturally. One of the next closest foods that contain almost this concentration of glucose to fructose is high fructose corn syrup used in making soda(HFCS 55), which only contains 55% fructose.
This quote goes on to explain why fructose is low glycemic:
…glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body, and fructose must be metabolized by the liver. Tests on animals show that the livers of animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrohosis of the liver. This is similar to the livers of alcoholics.
And why is this bad? In a post from a paleo blogger we find this:
Fructose makes your liver create new fat, gives you more small dense LDL and oxidized LDL — the worst, true artery “clogging” kind — and gives you a fat belly.
The raw food blog continues:
Fructose appears to interfere with copper metabolism. This causes collagen and elastin being unable to form. Collagen and elastin are connective tissue which essentially hold the body together. A deficiency in copper can also lead to bone fragility, anemia, defects of the arteries and bone, infertility, high cholesterol levels, heart attacks and ironically enough an inability to control blood sugar levels.
Fructose … reduces the sensitivity of insulin receptors. Insulin receptors are the way glucose enters a cell to be metabolized. As a result, the body needs to make more insulin to handle the same amount of glucose.
Fructose consumption has been shown to increase blood lactic acid, especially for people with conditions such as diabetes. Extreme elevations may cause metabolic acidosis.
Consumption of fructose leads to mineral losses, especially excretions of iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc compared to subjects fed sucrose.
Fructose also raises serum triglycerides (blood fats) significantly.
Being low-glycemic isn’t necessarily a good thing.
And in this post from a polular paleo proponent, a study is mentioned in which they studied the effects of glucose versus fructose (agave is 90% fructose):
After ten weeks, both groups had gained about three pounds. But they didn’t gain it in the same place. The fructose group gained a disproportionate amount of visceral fat…! Visceral fat is the most dangerous type; it’s associated with and contributes to chronic disease, particularly metabolic syndrome….
The fructose group [also] saw a worsening of blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. They also saw an increase in small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL, both factors that associate strongly with the risk of heart attack and may in fact contribute to it. Liver synthesis of fat after meals increased by 75%. If you look at table 4, it’s clear that the fructose group experienced a major metabolic shift, and the glucose group didn’t. Practically every parameter they measured in the fructose group changed significantly over the course of the 9 weeks. It’s incredible.
Fructose is worse than glucose.
Here’s an article from NaturalNews.com that goes into much more detail.
Here’s an agave post from a pro-dairy blog that links to several good resources.
And finally, here’s good post from another low-carb blog I read.
For your health, avoid agave.