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The Real Truth about Agave as a “Safe” Sweetener

With all the buzz surrounding unhealthy artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, you may be searching for an “alternative” way to “sweeten the deal” when it comes to your favorite foods and drinks. Agave has long been promoted as just that alternative, but is it really better for you?

Agave syrup is also called Agave nectar and is an example of how clever marketing can disguise the truth when it comes to health benefits of a product. In addition to being marketed as a sugar substitute and used as an artificial sweetener that is supposedly “safe,” it is also promoted as a low glycemic food that entices diabetics who are told to lay off sweets. 

Agave products are found in tea, energy drinks and even health drinks. The products have tripled in number since 2003 when they were first introduced to the market. Agave is the newest trend when it comes to artificial sweeteners. It has a delicate taste and takes less to sweeten foods or beverages than regular sugar.

The public perception of Agave is that it is a “healthy” alternative to sugar. As an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners with chemicals that have been linked to cancer, they are desperate for a healthy alternative to their sugar cravings. Through clever marketing, such companies as McCormick & Company have convinced them that this product is just what they are looking for. 

The Not-So-Sweet Truth

The Agave plant is found in Mexico and is a derived from sap. This information alone seems to be enough to convince the public that the product is “all-natural.” However, this is not the case. Agave is not a natural food or an organic food, as has been implied. Instead, it is a chemically processed sap that is almost all fructose. 

And, while many people are under the impression that Agave syrup is better for them than sugar when it comes to calories, this is also not the case. There are about 16 calories a teaspoon in Agave, which is basically the same as sugar. 

Even more disturbing is the fact that Agave syrup may not have a low glycemic index, as indicated by the marketing of the product. Depending on how much heat is used to process the syrup, it may contain up to 90 percent fructose. Although this is lower than the levels of high fructose corn syrup, it is still a level of fructose that can raise blood sugar levels. This can be especially problematic for diabetics who may be under the impression that this syrup is a safe form of sweetener for them.

There are many dangers of fructose in addition to raising the blood glucose level and piling on empty calories. Health problems that are associated with fructose include high blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, fragile bones, anemia, defective arteries and the list goes on. Fructose even increases the amount of uric acid in the blood which can lead to heart disease. 

To make matters worse, there are less quality control systems that monitor the production of Agave. Because it is not manufactured in the United States, quality control is not the same when it comes to production of the product.

Agave is a symbol of marketing over matter. It promises the public an answer to sugar while creating an entire set of problems of its own.  You may want to think twice before using Agave as your “healthy” alternative!

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