POTENTIAL DANGERS OF AGAVE

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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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  1. Hi! This is my first time here, and I thought I’d give my 2 cents. To me, your post above seems very one-sided. I’ve actually contacted a few of the agave manufacturers who told me that these are some of the rumors they battle against because they take sales away from synthetic sugars and cane sugar.

    Also, as someone who bakes exclusively with agave nectar and who has long suffered with sugar sensitivities, I’ve noticed a huge positive change in my moods since using agave rather then other sugars/sugar substitutes. Additionally, I practice moderation in what I put into my system to avoid sugar issues altogether. Finally, my friends who are diabetic have been able to enjoy 1 or two cookies or a slice of a pie I’ve baked without the negative effects they previously experienced with “traditional” sweets. Let me tell you, they were grateful. 🙂

    Anyway, just thought I’d contribute since I thought you’d welcome some personal experience.

  2. Hi Deb.
    Yes, I do appreciate your sharing your experience. You are probably right that “moderation” is the key. However, I think it is important for people to realize that fructose is fructose whether it comes from corn or from cactus.

    Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog!

  3. You are kidding me! I looked at the recipes posted, and you promote the use of toxic chemicals in the recipes, yet talk about agave?! Crystal lite drink mix is all chemicals, that are toxic for the body.

  4. Mia culpa on the Crystal Light. It contains aspartame, and I don’t recommend the use of aspartame. I think there is another brand of lemonade mix that would be a better choice, but I’ll have to find out what it is.

    Read my other posts about sweeteners here: http://carbwars.blogspot.com/2007/10/sweeteners-update.html and here: http://carbwars.blogspot.com/2007/07/sweeteners.html for more information about agave and other “natural” sweeteners.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. What you are saying is very true. Fructose does not cause a insulin response but can still cause many of the problems attributed to having elevated insulin levels. Deb Schiff speaks about how she feels better than when she eats sugar. The big problem with fructose is it can cause many of the problems attributed to high sucrose food and it can do so without the symptoms attributed to sugar sensitivities. Check out this article: http://cutthefatpodcast.com/238/cut-the-fat-blog/agave-nectar-is-it-a-good-alternative-to-sugar it confirms what you are saying

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