Is Agave Really Better Than Sugar?
In the continuing quest for a guilt-free sweetener agave has taken center stage in most so called organic foods as an all natural alternative to sugar. Agave nectar is significantly sweeter than sugar and a naturally occurring substance as opposed to chemically created artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame. It’s ‘natural’ origins make it immensely popular with the ‘health-food’ industry and is aggressively marketed to the health conscious as a healthy alternative to sugar and high fructose corn syrup. The reality is that not only is agave nectar in the form we find in health food stores unnatural, but also just as bad for your health as corn syrup and regular sugar if not worse.
Agave Isn’t Natural- It’s A Highly Processed Product
The first and most important issue to address is the idea that high concentrations of agave nectar are natural and it isn’t. Nectar is not found in high concentrations and the form of agave found in the health food stores is not the same as what you would find in nature. Naturally occurring agave nectar contains inulin, a fiber like ingredient that does have some health benefits, however during the manufacturing process, enzymes are added to the inulin to break it down into a more digestible form of sugar- fructose, which creates a high fructose syrup. (More on the dangers of fructose later on in the article)
Agave Has A History Of Causing Health Problems
The argument that agave nectar was used by the Native Indians of the Southwest American continent is also a bit misleading as it omits the fact that Spanish settlers reported that all of the tribes that used agave had a tendency towards extreme tooth decay. The Indians chewed the sweet heart of the plan but not without negative consequences. Before we dismiss cavities and tooth decay as inevitable, as many here in the West tend to assume, we should look to the examples of tribes where no such sweeteners were used- agave or honey. Dr. Weston Price, a dentist and one of the first Europeans to make the connection between bad health and Western dietary practices made detailed studies of several African tribes including the Masai of Tankanika, the Chewya of Kenya, the Muhima of Uganda, the Watusi of Rwanda and the Neurs tribes in Sudan and cavities were almost non-existent- less than 0.5%. Cavities come from what we eat-regardless of dental hygiene as many native people studied by Dr. Price never brushed or cared for their teeth the way we do today and yet remained free of cavities.
Agave Has More Fructose Than High Fructose Corn Syrup
Far more important is the chemical composition of agave nectar. While touted as a low glycemic substance that could be great for diabetics as a sugar alternative, agave nectar is composed of mostly fructose. Fructose, as found naturally in fruit with the presence of fiber, vitamins and minerals has been consumed by humans for millions of years- however in isolation studies have shown that it can actually increase insulin resistance, raise triglycerides (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and increase visceral abdominal fat which also in turn puts you at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Studies have continually found that fructose in isolation is a major problem and agave nectar is almost 90% fructose! That’s far more than table sugar and several times more than the levels found in high fructose corn syrup!
Agave Poses A Health Threat Since It Is Marketed As Being Healthy
In the end agave nectar poses a considerable health threat as while most people are aware of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, and the consumption of sugary food products and do their best to eliminate them or cut down their consumption, thanks to brilliant marketing on the part of the ‘health food industry’ few are aware that products such as agave are bad for their health and thus are more apt to use it freely as they believe it to have positive qualities. It is a unfortunate but common occurrence in today’s world where more so called health foods are sold more than any other time in our history and yet rates of obesity and diet related disease continues to climb. Agave isn’t the only offender but it is one that you should avoid if you are seeking optimum health and proper weight management.
Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training 10 Minute Workouts™ and one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City. Get a copy of his free weight loss ebook here.