Don’t be fooled by the marketing. Agave nectar is not really a whole food or a raw “nectar” as the label says, rather it is a highly processed and fractionated sweetener syrup. The major concern is the high level of free fructose in agave syrup—much higher than in honey and maple syrup. Agave syrup contains 70 – 85% fructose, whereas high fructose corn syrup, raw honey and conventional maple syrup contain only 55%, 38% and 0.8% fructose, respectively. (Did you catch that— higher levels than HFCS?!)
The reason Agave syrup is touted as a healthy alternative is because it ranks relatively low on the glycemic load scale and therefore is a good sweetener for diabetics. (The glycemic index is a way of measuring the relative impact of foods on blood sugar levels.) We have to consider why agave syrup is low glycemic—it is due to the unusually high concentrations of fructose (80%) compared to the small amount of glucose (20%). Even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, there are numerous problems associated with it.
What’s wrong with fructose?
– Pure fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and actually robs the body of these nutrients in order to assimilate itself for physiological use.
– Fructose may contribute to diabetic conditions. It reduces the sensitivity of insulin receptors.
– Fructose inhibits leptin levels—the hormone that sends your body the full-signal— making you eat more.
– Fructose makes you fat! It is metabolized by the liver (rather than the intestine like glucose and levulose) and therefore immediately converts to triglycerides and gets stored as fat. (Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels—making it safe for diabetics.)
Better sweetener alternatives are raw honey, stevia, or xylitol.