Monday, March 22, 2010

Agave afterthoughts

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Health foods remain on the economic warpath, continuing to gain market share, as evidenced by interest in the Natural Products Expo West/Supply Expo held March 12-14 in Anaheim, Calif. This year, record attendance was set at the event hailed as the world's largest natural and organic product trade show, featuring some 3,000 vendors.

Check out a rundown of some hopeful new products and trends here.

Among said trends is one that as of only recently concerns me: that of agave as a sugar substitute.

Perhaps those spikes were a warning afterall ...
  • Perhaps those spikes were a warning afterall ...

From the above link:

Agave is the sweetener du jour in everything, including Agave Dream ice cream and sorbets, affording a lower glycemic index than sugar.

I don't believe anyone is disputing agave's glycemic index claim, but several articles I found on the most cursory of Web searches indicate the unhealthy amount of fructose in agave, which most nutritionists agree is as damaging to the body as the commonly vilified high fructose corn syrup.

In this article, the author says:

So the bottom line is — if you have a sweet tooth, stick to organic cane sugar, or raw honey in small amounts. Do not use any artificial sweeteners, which are worse for your health than fructose. And remember, even agave syrup is fructose.

A more informative article, which looks at the misconception of agave as a raw food and the method for processing the plant, explains clearly:

Agave Syrup is advertised as “low glycemic” and marketed towards diabetics. It is true, that agave itself is low glycemic. 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. Even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, there are numerous problems associated with the consumption of fructose in such high concentrations as found in concentrated sweeteners ... Research suggests that fructose actually promotes disease more readily than glucose. This is because glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body, and fructose must be metabolized by the liver. 3 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.

So ... do what you will with this info, but for now, I'm thinking of tossing out the rest of the agave bottle in my pantry and sticking with the honey from my own hive, stevia, and a little maple syrup.

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