Agave: Why We Were Wrong

Agave nectar

Over the past few months, I’ve become increasingly concerned about a sweetener that I’ve recommended on my show in the past. After careful consideration of the available research, today I’m asking you to eliminate agave from your kitchen and your diet. Here’s why.

We used to think that because agave has a low-glycemic index and doesn’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar does, it would be a good alternative for diabetics. But it turns out that although agave doesn’t contain a lot of glucose, it contains more fructose than any other common sweetener, including high-fructose corn syrup. Initially, we thought moderate amounts of fructose weren’t unhealthy, but now we know better.

When you eat fructose-rich agave, your body does not release nearly as much insulin as it does when you eat regular sugar. This can affect how your body releases a hormone called leptin, which helps to control appetite. At the same time, experts believe that fructose is converted into fat more rapidly than glucose is. This can lead to several alarming consequences. The first is that people who eat a lot of agave are at risk for weight gain, especially belly fat. The second is that agave may actually increase insulin resistance for both diabetics and non-diabetics.

In addition, fructose poses a danger to your cardiovascular system and could increase your risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Unlike glucose, fructose can only be broken down in the liver. As it gets metabolized, uric acid and free radicals form, which can trigger inflammation and damage cells. Plus, one of the most dangerous final products of fructose metabolism is triglycerides, which can contribute to the fatty arterial plaques responsible for cardiovascular disease. High triglycerides are particularly dangerous for women, whose risk for cardiovascular disease rises three times as much for every single unit increase in triglycerides compared to men.

But fortunately, agave is not the only natural sweetener you can turn to when you have to satisfy your sweet tooth. Raw honey has less fructose than most agave and is the only natural sweetener with other health benefits, which include anti-microbial, heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory effects. It has even been shown to help soothe a cough as well as, if not better than, many over-the-counter cough syrups. I love honey so much that I even harvest my own, but you can find raw organic honey at your local supermarket. However, keep in mind that no infants under the age of one should eat raw or pasteurized honey.

As always, the safety and health of all Americans is of the utmost importance to me. After learning about the risks high-fructose foods like agave may pose, I knew I had to speak up and alert you so that you can turn to healthier alternatives like honey. In the future, if you have to use agave, I urge you to use the smallest amount possible.