Agave, a plant more traditionally associated with the tequila made from it, has also enjoyed a rise in the popularity of agave nectar. It’s used as a condiment, sweetener and even added to some foods to help keep them edible longer. Marketed as a natural, even healthy, sweetener or as a honey-substitute for vegans, agave nectar can actually cause a lot of problems for your overall health. In fact, agave nectar may be even worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Primarily, it’s the presence of fructose in agave nectar that is the trouble. Fructose is a type of sugar that your body can metabolize for energy, like glucose. Unlike glucose, though, which can be sent throughout your body and used quickly, fructose goes first to your liver. Here it can result in energy, sure, but is also stored as fat at a much higher rate than glucose, lowers your Insulin Efficiency, and increases the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. The reason why agave nectar may be worse than high-fructose corn syrup is a simple comparison of fructose content. High-fructose corn syrup is generally 55% fructose and 45% glucose. (Table sugar is a 50-50 split.)
Agave nectar’s fructose content, depending on the brand, may be equal to that of HFCS or run as high as 65%. Fructose, of course, occurs naturally in many of the healthy foods we eat, like fruits and vegetables. Why then is it so bad for you? Unlike fruits and vegetables, sweeteners like agave nectar and HFCS lack any fiber or other nutrients to help counteract the deleterious effects of the fructose. When taken in isolation via HFCS or agave nectar, fructose causes havoc with important hormones in your body, namely ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is how your body tells you that you’re hungry. When it is released by the digestive system, it makes us want to eat. When we do eat, our digestive system stops releasing it, causing our hunger to subside. Fructose cancels this out. Our digestive system will continue to secrete ghrelin, leading to overeating. The fiber and other nutrients in fruit and other foods is its own natural appetite suppressant. When you get fructose via agave nectar, though, you’re missing out and staying hungry, despite chowing down.
Leptin is sort of the opposite of ghrelin. Whereas ghrelin tells you when you’re hungry, leptin tells you when you’re full. You may remember that fructose travels to the liver before being metabolized into energy or stored as fat. When your liver gets blocked up with excess fructose, the insulin, which should be carrying it throughout your body to be used as energy, can start to build up in your bloodstream. This sort of thing causes your Insulin Efficiency to go down and blocks the release of leptin. Without leptin, we still feel hungry and still feel good about eating. It’s part of why it’s so easy to overeat on processed foods, the added fructose in them keeps us from feeling satisfied. It’s much more difficult to overeat on, say, 6 bananas, than frozen pizza.
Agave nectar, like any form of sugar or sweetener, will not cause you to drop dead if you only have a little. Overeating pretty much anything is unhealthy, so you just need to mind your intake. Really, avoiding agave nectar isn’t too difficult when you eat a healthy diet to begin with, just don’t add it to foods thinking it’s going to be an improvement over standard table sugar. The Olumia Life diet is an easy way to keep your meals delicious, and without excess agave nectar.
Connect with us to discuss how Olumia Life can benefit you and your practice. Physicians may contact our Olumia Life project lead, Steven Willey MD.Connect with Us
Our Director of Corporate Wellness will respond within 24 hours.Getting started is simple! Connect with us to discuss how we may assist.Connect with Us