I’m not even gonna type in this one. I’m just gonna compile the words of a bunch of people much smarter than I.
It’s true that agave nectar has a lower GI value than table sugar, and some studies found diets rich in foods with low GI values can prevent diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. However, it’s still equally important to look at other factors in the diet: total carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and fats, exercise habits, eating style, stress level, and so on.
Plus, agave nectar is 90% fructose. If excessive fructose is causing our obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome epidemic, then agave might be worse than high fructose corn syrup (55% fructose) and worse than table sugar. Fructose doesn’t stimulate insulin release and as a result, doesn’t stimulate the release of another hormone that makes us feel full. So when we consume too much fructose, we are likely to eat more! Plus, fructose goes to the liver to be broken down, and there it is converted to fat, which can raise cholesterol and triglycerides. Bad stuff. Read this article from Diabetes Health for more on fructose.
And let’s not forget that agave is still nutrient-free.
Agave nectar is processed. It undergoes heat processing so that fructosans, the complex form of fructose found in it, are broken down into fructose. Now that doesn’t sound so natural from where I stand. [source]
On to Dr. Joseph Mercola:
If you knew the truth about what’s really in it, you’d be dumping it down the drain — and that would certainly be bad for sales.
Most agave “nectar” or agave “syrup” is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, and offering you metabolic misfortune in its place.
Unfortunately, masterful marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and dangerous artificial sweeteners.
And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been especially targeted and told this is simply the best thing for you since locally grown organic lettuce, that it’s “diabetic friendly,” has a “low glycemic index” and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Most agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any commercial sweetener — ranging from 55 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.
This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS.
It is important to understand that fructose does not increase insulin levels, which is not necessarily good as what it does do is radically increase insulin resistance, which is FAR more dangerous. You see, it’s okay for your insulin levels to rise, that is normal. You just don’t want these insulin levels to remain elevated, which is what insulin resistance causes.
That is why fasting insulin is such a powerful test, as it is a very powerful reflection of your insulin resistance.
In addition to insulin resistance, your risk of liver damage increases, along with triglycerides and a whole host of other health problems, as discussed in this CBC News video about the newly discovered dangers of high fructose corn syrup. The study discussed in this news report is about HFCS, however, it’s well worth remembering that agave contains MORE fructose than HFCS, and in all likelihood, it’s the FRUCTOSE that is causing these severe liver problems.
On agave’s production and manufacturing:
Although the industry wants you to believe that agave nectar runs straight from the plant and into your jar, nothing could not be farther from the truth.
In spite of manufacturer’s claims, most agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from its pineapple-like root bulb. The root has a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of fructose molecules.
The process which many, if not most, agave producers use to convert this inulin into “nectar” is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.
Though processing methods can differ among manufacturers, most commercially available agave is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals. Here is a partial list of the chemicals many producers use:
- Activated charcoal
- Cationic and ionic resins
- Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid
- Inulin enzymes
How natural does this sound?
The result is highly refined fructose syrup, along with some remaining insulin.
Most agave “nectar” is neither safe nor natural with laboratory-generated fructose levels of more than 80 percent!
But is there a safe way to enjoy agave nectar? 3 Fat Chicks seem to think so:
Those who wish to use agave nectar as a safe natural sweetener should select raw, unprocessed agave nectar that is free from impurities. Look for USDA Organic certified agave nectar, and read labels carefully. Never buy agave nectar that isn’t grown, harvested and manufactured in the United States.
I think the point about diabetics is one of the most interesting to me, because lots of diabetics cling to agave nectar for their “sweet” taste. There are safe ways to enjoy “sweet” that aren’t so nebulous. Just have to do a little digging.
I think that what posts like this reinforce, for me, is to do what I can to get my “sweet” from natural sources, because the further away from “natural” we get, the more problems seem to arise.
As with anything else, strive for as few excess chemicals in your products, agave included, and if it’s pricey then use that as an excuse to pare down your use of it. As with all other things, your body will thank you for it!