Monday, April 19, 2010

Agave Nectar Dangers; facts and myths

The people claiming that fructose is worse than sucrose are ignorant and plain wrong. HFCS is typically 42% fructose, mostly glucose; some is 55% fructose.

Is blood sugar no longer an important issue? Diabetes statistics would seem to insist that it is still relevant. In that regard alone, fructose (with a Glycemic Index rating of 20, versus 100 for 100% sucrose white sugar) is far better than sucrose in terms of not provoking high blood sugar and the resulting insulin reactions.

And the repetition that agave nectar production is analogous to HFCS production is mind numbingly simplistic and misleading. In terms of agave production, taking inulin that's made of chains of fructose, adding non-GMO "plant enzymes" to free the fructose, then heating and filtering is not really that unnatural a process; in fact, in some ways quite similar to human digestion. HFCS production involves converting 100% sucrose corn syrup into fructose and then adding pure corn syrup to achieve the 42% or 55% fructose syrup (the rest of the 100% in each form is pure corn syrup as sucrose). There is no corn used to make agave nectar, and sugars are not converted into other forms or blended.

Studies showing that getting 25% of daily calories, around 500 calories, solely from fructose is related to obesity begs the question of why getting nearly all of our carbs from a single sugar, rather than from a mix of sugars along with fiber and starches, is anything other than a fast food worst case scenario. This is not relevant to those taking a little agave nectar in place of other sweeteners. Trying to frighten people who now won't even take a piece of whole fruit or a couple of calories worth of fructose in a chewable or liquid dietary supplement (this is actually happening!) is in my opinion both cynical and misleading. That is not honest nutrition. Common sense should be more common.


FDA said...

Did you not think about the chemicals that come with manufacturing of Agave nectar?

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA said...

Most people in health food stores use certified organic agave. There are no chemical inputs. Heat and enzymes are the only changes after pressing the juice. The process from farm to consumer packaging is independently audited by third party certification agencies. So stick to cerified organic USDA compliant agave and you should have no worries!

Yvonne said...

Hi Neil
After reading several articles on Agave and their "dangers" I was really worried. I just made a receipe (apple sauce) with agave and was about to throw it all out when I found your article.
I like that you are accredited and actually have knowledge of the food industry.
Thank you for clearing this up for me.
I would love for some of your feedback on two products.
Vegegreens and Phytoberry if you have time to review them online, they are made by Progessive

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA said...

Thanks, Yvonne.
I can't comment of specific brands and their products in this forum, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Is it OK that I use agave as a substitute for all my baking. My children seem to love it and muffins, banana bread are the perfect sweetness. Or am I over doing it

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA said...

Agave can be used for baking. Like all sweeteners, too much is not good. When people get hundreds of calories a day from sweeteners, they tend to have health problems, inlcuding a reduction of insulin sensitivity that allows us to control blood sugar. As usual, moderation is the key.

drblainec said...

Thanks Neil for your excellent comments on Agave Nectar. Your common sense and science regarding this subject are greatly appreciated. I have supported moderate usage of Agave Nectar for years with my clients and have seen no hyper-insulinism nor exacerbation of diabetes with reasonable amounts. I hope your article dispells some of the myths regarding Agave.
Blaine Chambers Ed.D.

Karen Bentley said...

Fructose is not measured in the glycemic index, which only measures glucose. Therefore, the dangers of fructose go under the radar, so to speak. Fructose accelerates the production of uric acid which results in gout and hypertension. Fructose goes straight to the liver where it's metabolized as FAT. Very little research has been done on fructose, which is truly unfortunate, since it's in almost everything we eat that comes in a package. New research is beginning to show that excessive fructose consumption is highly toxic and may be the common, underlying cause of metabolic syndrome which results in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is nothing "natural" or preferable about agave syrup/nectar. It is a processed food, just like sugar is a processed food. These never end up being good for us.
Karen Bentley, creator of The Sugar-free Miracle Diet

John said...

April 2012 edition of Nutrition Action suggests that fructose ends up as belly or visceral fat, that agave is 88% fructose, making it potentially more likely to end up as visceral fat. Accompanying chart lists corn syrup as 100% glucose. We are wondering whether to go back to sucrose, of just use NO sugar in our tea. Use c. 6 tsp. agave/day. Would appreciate your comments on the article. Could send it to you...

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA said...

Again, the dose makes the poison. Are the people saying not to eat any fructose (which does not include the primary researcher cited by these critics) also recommend against eating fruit? Of course not. That proves that the amount of fructose is important, as is the presence of fiber. Please rerad my original agave post, as well as my fructose post, if you missed those points.

Please reread my comment about production of organic agave, which uses only heat or enzymes to turn FOS into fructose. It is not a highly processed food like high fructose corn syrup.

Excessive consumption of fructose (defined in the scientific literature as over 500 calories per day), as well as excessive consumption of other sugars, inevitably lead to insulin resistance, especially in the absence of adequate dietary fiber and exercise. The main difference is that fructose takes longer to provoke this problem since it doesn't directly raise blood glucose like other sugars. Taking a few calories of fructose as a chewable tablet sweetener, for example, poses no real problem yet many people are scared by the anti-fructose activists who do not faithfully describe the relevant factors.

Please see my posting on fructose for mre information: