The Problem With Agave
by Shannon Weeks
grows in Mexico and the southwest. The plant at one time was traditionally used by
native Americans to create a mildly alcoholic beverage known as pulque. This drink
first appeared on stone carvings in Mexico around 200 A.D. and is still consumed in
some rural areas of central and south America. They also made a traditional
sweetener from the agave sap or juice called miel de agave by simply boiling it for
several hours. But, as one agave seller explains, the agave nectar purchased in
stores is neither of these traditional foods: "Agave nectar is a newly created
sweetener, having been developed during the 1990's.

Agave "nectar" that is in stores today is not produced form the sap of the plant as
the name implies. It is made form the root bulb which consists primarily of starch and
a complex carbohydrate called inulin. According to Russ Bianchi, Managing Director
and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage
development company, agave "nectar" and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) "are
indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified

They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the
conversion of agave starches The result is a high level
of highly refined fructose in the remaining syrup, along with some remaining inulin.
Even though the starch in agave goes through the same process as HFCS, it is not
required by law to be named "High Fructose Agave Syrup", which is exactly what it is.

So what's the difference between the light and amber colors sold in the stores?
According to Mr. Bianchi: "Due to poor quality control in the agave processing plants
in Mexico, sometimes the fructose gets burned after being heated above 140
degrees Fahrenheit, thus creating a darker, or amber color." However, the labels
create the impression of an artisan product-like light or amber beer.

Like HFCS, agave syrup is a man-made sweetener, and like all man-made foods,
should be completely avoided. While high fructose agave syrup won't spike your
blood glucose levels, the fructose in it may cause mineral depletion, liver
inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, high
blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity. For the large majority of people
who are addicted to sugar, switching to agave syrup instead of cane sugar is the
equivalent of an alcoholic switching to wine because he drinks too much beer.

About The Author

Dr. Weeks is a board-certified primary care physician and Applied Kinesiologist
practicing in Portland, OR -
I was recently in a restaurant that
prided itself on being all organic,
gluten and soy free. The food was
delicious and while I was waiting at
the counter I noticed a bottle of
"Wholesome Organic Agave Nectar"
that I assumed they used instead of
cane sugars. Have you ever
wondered what agave nectar is and
why it's the sweetener of choice in so
many health conscious stores? I
found a great write up about it on the
Weston-Price Foundation website
that I'll summarize here.

Agave is a succulent that chiefly
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