Thursday, March 18, 2010

Agave - The Not So "Good" Sugar

Agave nectar has been sold to consumers as a 'natural', 'healthy' alternative to sugar.  It is commercially produced from several varities of the Agave plant and is 1.4 - 1.6 times sweeter than sugar.  Agave is marketed as a low-glycemic sweetener, meaning that it illicits a lower spike in blood sugar than other sweeteners.  But does that make it better?  Let's look at the true compostion of agave nectar.

Agave nectar, like table sugar, is a mixture of fructose and glucose.  Sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup have a fructose to glucose ratio of about 1:1.  Agave, on the other hand, has a fructose to glucose ratio ranging between 7 and 9:1 making it considerably higher in fructose than glucose.  What does that mean?  Fructose has been shown to increase insulin resistance leading to fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, an unfavorable blood lipid profile, diabetes, etc.  So, more fructose, in a concentrated form, is NOT what anyone needs!

Agave nectar is like high fructose corn syrup on steroids - it's got even more fructose.  Another con to ingesting too much fructose is that unlike glucose, which can be metabolized by nearly every cell in the body, fructose can only be metabolized in the liver.  This creates a high risk for the development of fatty liver disease (that's not a good thing...).

The arguement will be that fructose is the sugar found in fruit, so if fructose is bad then fruit is bad.  This is not the case.  The concentration of fructose in fruit is much lower than that in sweeteners and fruit also delivers fiber, nutrients and water that the body needs. 

That's the not so 'sweet' truth about agave nectar. 



  1. Timely post for me, thanks! I'd been wondering about agave. :-)

  2. What do you think about those "sugar alcohols"?? I see them marketed in sugar free candy


  3. What about things like splenda...I know they don't affect the blood glucose level but what about insulin response to it?

  4. I wrote a post last week about maple syrup - what do you think of it as a sweetener. I don't like Agave syrup because I think it is expensive.
    AKA snack-girl

  5. I'm confused...what about Gu gels during a long run or ride?

  6. Doug,
    Paleo for athletes makes some exceptions to the 'hard-fast' Paleo rules. Using Gu during a long run or ride can be acceptable for use during long duration endurance training.