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“Agave provokes bitter debate as a sweetener,” reads the headline in the March 23rd Chicago Tribune: www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-0323deardorffmar23,1,7478086.story. The story raises questions about the safely of the trendy, expensive, liquid sugar made from the Mexican agave cactus. Agave nectar is being marketed as a healthful, all-natural substitute for sucrose because it has a very low glycemic index and doesn’t raise insulin levels. However, the dangers of fructose are well known, and agave nectar is almost 100% fructose. As I wrote in this previous post, http://carbwars.blogspot.com/search?q=agave, fructose raises triglycerides, promotes belly fat, and contributes to fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. It increases the formation of glycation end-products, which speed up the aging process.

Although the juice of the agave cactus is about half glucose and half fructose as it comes from the plant, it is refined to remove the glucose. “ ‘It’s almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing,’ said Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, fellow of the American College of Nutrition and associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.”
But wait—there’s more. There have been reports that many of the products labeled as being from the blue agave plant really contain high-fructose syrup from corn and other varieties of agave because blue agave is expensive and in high demand for making tequila. Russ Bianchi, a food and beverage formulator, is quoted as saying, “Agave is really chemically refined hydrolyzed high-fructose inulin syrup and not from the blue agave plant, organic or raw as claimed.”

Although the article includes quotes from some who endorse the use of agave “in moderation,” it also lists concerns about agave consumption, including the following:
– It can contain botulism spores and should not be given to babies.
– It should be avoided if you are pregnant, as some believe it can cause miscarriages.
– It can worsen acne and diabetes symptoms.
– It does not raise blood glucose levels, but it raises blood fructose, which is worse.
– Use only agave nectar that is organic and carries a USDA seal.

The author states that although the FDA does not see a need for action, it requests reports of adverse effects from agave.

© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

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