Is Agave Nectar Safe?


agave plant

There has been some buzz swirling around agave nectar and whether the sweet cactus-nectar is good for our bodies or not. I want to help my readers be aware of the increasing number of fraudulent, poor-quality “agave” products being sold in common supermarkets around the country.

The following article will educate you on fraudulent high-fructose agave nectar and its negative health consequences, as well as the benefits of using true organic agave nectar as a sweetener.

The Downside of High-Fructose Agave Nectar

Recent claims regarding agave nectar urge us to be aware of the type of agave we are purchasing. Many brands sold in the supermarket, claiming to be organic, are nothing more than refined fructose. Common forms of retail-refined agave syrup sold in supermarkets do not tell consumers what has been done to the syrup in the laboratory.

While the label may claim that the agave is “organic and all-natural,” the label does not explain that the syrup has gone through an extensive process of chemical refining which changes the enzymatic structure of the syrup, converting it into a man-made chemical fructose.

Herein lies the main concern surrounding the nectar that many well-known nutritionists are recommending as a healthier sugar-substitute. There is a direct link between man-made chemical fructose and deadly degenerative diseases.

Agave Plant

Critics also note that once consumed, refined fructose is turned into triglyceride, which is essentially stored as body fat. And while high fructose agave syrup does not cause the extreme spikes in blood sugar levels like common white sugar, it does have possible associations to a spectrum of health-depleting conditions such as:

  • Depletion of the body’s minerals
  • Irritation of the liver
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Tendency towards insulin resistance, a predecessor to diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Weight gain, and even obesity
  • Toxic effects is pregnant women

In a recent article on NaturalNews.com, author Rami Nagel, states that fake forms of refined-fructose agave.

Rami Nagel’s words on Agave & Refined Fructose:

“lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn’t recognize refined fructose. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Refined fructose robs the body of many micronutrient treasures in order to assimilate itself for physiological use. While naturally occurring fruit sugars contain levulose bound to other sugars, high fructose corn syrup contains “free” (unbound), chemically refined fructose. Research indicates that free refined fructose interferes with the heart’s use of key minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium.” [1]

The Upside: Agave Nectar is Not Made Equally

Natural agave has been harvested traditionally in Mexico for hundreds of years. Ranking fairly low on the glycemic load scale, a small amount of the nectar provides a larger amount of sweetness than common sugar, and thus, a little goes a long way.

The agave plant also contains saponins and fructans, phytochemicals associated with many beneficial and immune-boosting capabilities. (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1996; 52:175-7).

One of these fructans is known as inulin, a natural plant sweetener with an extremely low impact on blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The ancient Aztecs even used the nectar as a healing salve for wounds. What is more, compounds derived from blue agave have been studied for their potential utility for treating colon diseases like ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Agave also holds high amounts of protein-building amino acids and alkaloids (Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2007; 62:133-8). Research indicates that minimally-processed agave does provide nutrients to the human body, and may even prevent chronic disease (Nutr Rev 2004; 62: 439-42).

It is also important to mention that not all agave products are created equal, and the dangerous high-fructose content cited by critics is not typical in all agave products. Roger Clemens, a professor at USC, has stated that: “Depending on how the syrup is processed, it may or may not contain more fructose.”

My Favorite Brand of Agave Nectar

What is important to determine when purchasing agave nectar is whether the sweetener comes from a trusted source. My personal favorite, that I use quite frequently, is Madhava Agave Nectar.

Madhava offers extremely high-quality, all-natural, 100% organic agave nectar, made by minimal processing. There are no chemicals used in the production of Madhava’s agave nectar from agave salmiana, and it is not cooked. Madhava agave is produced using only low temperatures during the evaporation of excess water from the juice. Used in moderate amounts, this low-glycemic sweetener is an excellent choice over white sugar and artificial sweeteners.

When choosing agave nectar be sure to contact the company to make sure they are not using chemicals in the processing techniques and that it is organic.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Rami Nagel. Agave Nectar, the high fructose health food fraud. Natural News. 2008 November 23.

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This entry was posted in Food

  • Lisa P.

    I love Madhava Agave Nectar, one of my co-workers bought one from Whole Foods. I didn’t know GHC has started carrying this product. It’s really great with coffee!

  • http://www.nourishyourchildren.com/freerecipes.html Mindy

    Great news! I love agave syrup. I use it in my coffee. It works great in my homemade salad dressings.

  • Lori L.

    Suzanne Specialities has a wonderful Agave, it’s organic and it’s in glass bottle instead of plastic.

  • Tanja (juice girl)

    I’m really glad to see such an informative article on Agave! I work at a health food store and the Agave controversy caused our store manager to start contacting all of our Agave product companies to get the low-down scoop.

    Thanks for sharing such a great article. I’m going to let everyone who asks me about Agave nectar know about your article!

  • Kim

    Does anyone know if the Wholesome Sweeteners brand is OK – I have the Organic Raw Blue Agave. The back of the bottle says it is produced at a low temperature (118 degrees F) – is that low enough? How do I find out? I love it and read another article that the bad kind can lead to obesity and was mortified!

  • http://dietdessertndogs.com Ricki

    Thank you so much for this article! I’ve become exhausted having to defend agave to critics who read Nagel’s article and take it no further.

  • http://www.lakemarymusings.com CherylK

    I didn’t realize that there was such a difference…I buy Madhava and love it and am thankful that it’s one of the best. This really does illustrate the importance of reading labels but also the importance of verifying claims printed on the labels. Thank you.

  • Skya

    It doesn’t seem that temperature has much to do with it. They use GMO enzymes to break down the starchy center of the plant into it’s component fructose molecules. They can call this stuff raw and organic, but it is not a real food. Sorry guys, none of the stuff you find on the market is a real food. They are not tapping the cactus and letting the nectar drip out. They are breaking down starch with enzymes, just like they do with HFCS.
    A sugar addict is a sugar addict, wants any excuse to get that fix…

  • sustainable living

    Agave Nectar is in so many of my favorite products now (raw chocolate especially). I’m wondering if I am going to have to start checking with these companies to find out who supplies their Agave to see if it really is raw and minimally processed. Somebody always has to ruin it for the rest of us!

  • sustainable living

    So many products I love now (mostly chocolate) use Agave Nectar to sweeten them instead of sugar or HFCS. I am wondering now if I need to find out who their supplier is to see if it really is in fact raw, organic and minimally processed. Its a shame it isn’t regulated very well.

  • Loli Owl

    I like using agave instead of honey in teas and baked goods, but the last line about contacting the company to get information about their processing gave me a little bit of a stomach cramp. I wish there was less homework involved!

  • christina

    Hey! Here’s a link to a written interview given by the president of the Madhava Agave Company, VERY insightful and almost a rebutle to the Rami Nagel article. I really liked it, and it made me feel safe about using my beloved agave nectar again :)

    http://stanford.wellsphere.com/healthy-eating-article/madhava-s-craig-gerbore-responds-to-agave-nectar-controversy-here/584480

  • Look for the Truth

    Do your research and only take opinions from those not recommending or selling a product. If you did a google search using the words “agave research” you will find that this product is as or more harmful in creating insulin resistance than chemically produced fructose. Check out this link: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/03/30/beware-of-the-agave-nectar-health-food-fraud.aspx

    The Glycemic Research institute halted Agave clinical trials due to the severe reaction from their diabetic patience.

  • brian

    HAHAHA! You say “only take opinions from those not recommending or selling a product.”

    And in the beginning of the article you link, it says this “Rather I *RECOMMEND* flavored stevia products like English Toffee or French Vanilla. You can also use xylitol in small amounts or glucose which is sold as dextrose and can easily be purchased on Amazon for $1 per pound. ”

    So, it’s ok for Dr. Mercola, someones opinion that I highly respect, to recommend a product, but not this site? That doesn’t make any sense.

    And he also presents zero credible evidence that Agave is worse than HFCS. Just opinion-based.

  • Ben

    Here are a few recent scientific refgerences on the topic in a brief, informative atricle.

    http://www.timeforwellness.org/blog-view/is-agave-syrup-really-a-health-food-142

    Enjoy,

  • anil chooah

    I am interested in importing and distributing agave nectar for commercial purpose

  • Dane

    Ummm, Agave isn’t a cactus. It is actually related to the lilly like Aloe.

  • Stella

    I am a regular user of Madhava Agave Nectado and enjoy great benefit. I agree agree with the author that Madhava Agave Nectar is a high-quality, all-natural, 100% organic agave nectar, made by minimal processing. I have reasons to believe that there is no trace of chemicals used in the product. I therefore strongly recommend the product.

  • Jack

    Me too! I also love using it in my coffee.

  • SV

    Thank you for a balanced article on agave nectar.

    I am just curious, how did you select Mudhava as your favorite brand? They have a good product, but it is not made from the Blue Weber agave plant, and therefore is not the highest quality agave nectar available. It also is not the lowest glycemic index available.

  • Awh Nuts
  • Gary

    I trust so little of this.. and the reason is that although the statistics about high-fructose is true, those facts can get mixed into any advertising spin where the truth about sugar is relative. Unless you have a lab and a degree or have a close friend who does that you can trust explicitly you are at the mercy of those who enlist your trust through statistics that really you cannot verify. I tiny bit more trust is garnered when the last paragraph is not: but *our* agave is bla bla bla..

    The truth to arm yourself with is not which process or which product, but know the facts about sugar – facts that have been hidden for years behind industrial strength lobbies. The internet is a great source of information that has the ability to slowly tear down the places where truth hides. But as well the internet is also a place where new hiding places are fast forming. Read carefully and do not be gullible.
    GK

  • Jennifer

    Did he specify a product!?!

  • Jennifer

    Agave isn’t raw.

  • Citrus Juicer

    I accidentally stumbled upon on this article as i was researching sugar alternatives. It’s very informative article indeed BUT i have to agree with Gary and Awh Nuts that don’t take everything on face value, do your research especially if you are diabetic. Fructose in any quantity could potentially have impact on the blood glucose levels. I have a lot of diabetic people on my moms side so i have already cut down on my sugar intake.

  • truth seeker

    Contacting the company should be the first line. The last line are several studies,opinions of chemists etc…You can easily avoid much of that by using kinethesiology to see if it is something right specifically for YOU!!

  • truth seeker

    I have not extensively researched, but my initial thoughts are the same. The further from the actual source the more refinement and processing……..

  • kindelan

    There isn’t any good agave, organic, pure, in glass, or otherwise. You’re selling BS and you’ll lose your readers one by one or in droves if you claim such nonsense when you’re selling the stuff. Read Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas, a woman so knowledgeable she’s often referred to as, “The Goddess.” You’ll never know as much as she, and neither does anyone else so don’t worry but do access her vast knowledge, I kneel at her altar every day and learn. Nora can save the world along with, Elaine Ingham, Sally Fallon Morel, Natasha Campbell McBride, Kaayla Daniel, a reincarnated Rachel Carson but not a politician among the group, the latter are useless and just get in the way.

  • newnew

    super wow. we are just discussing food. you went way off the ranch here.

  • TINA M BRANCO

    i read the interview,, and am grateful to you for posting the link,,
    Tina

  • JDintheOC

    The question is, who says this woman is so knowledgeable? And referred to as the goddess by whom? If I had a dime for everyone I’d met that claimed to be the master of masters, I’d be a lot better off than I am now. Talk is cheap and I don’t fool quite so easily. Let’s have some statistics to back up your claim.

  • Sandi

    Wow, you need to see someone. This rant was totally uncalled for.

  • colleen

    Although I agree with your statement there is NO healthy agave nectar, I am concerned you have fallen prey to the Cult of the Personality. You state you “worship at the altar of Nora Gedgaudas, a woman so knowledgeable she’s often referred to as, “The Goddess.” What’s next? Drinking the Purple Kool-Aid at Jonestown? Joining the Moonies and Scientology?

    Whenever one person is set above all others as the fountain of all knowledge it renders them to Cult Leader status. You posit “you’ll never know as much as she, and neither does anyone else so don’t worry but do access her vast knowledge”. That is identical to what has been said about every cult leader in history.

    Granted, it may in fact be true that Nora Gedgaudas is in fact highly informed, cerebral, intellectual and a person of good character – but you claim no one is as smart as she is and no one has any merit other than her and your other collection of women you claim have the right to rule the world

    I’d advise you to be far less dogmatic, doctrinaire and hard core idealogue. You sound sort of like Rush Lumbaugh and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News who claim to be the undisputed fountain of all knowledge on the planet. The only difference being they are the wing-nut far right and you are the wing-nut far left of groovy hipster mumbo jumbo!

    I genuinely wish you well – but you should seriously consider getting on going counseling from a licensed mental health clinician to work on your obsession with making ORDINARY people into Cult Leaders.

    Why not act on your OWN wisdom, your OWN knowledge, your OWN self esteem – instead of grandiose glorification of other people you allege have God like powers? What you recommend is giving up your OWN personal power and turning a Cult Figure into the Supreme Being.

    There is nothing remotely health about this

    Best Wishes

    colleen

  • colleen

    Food with “natural flavoring” is 99% of the time petrochemical based toxic crud. The FDA and USDA allows food manufacturers to use petrochemical synthetic ingredients and call it “natural flavor”

    You recommended “Flavored stevia products like English Toffee or French Vanilla” This stuff is crap
    Stevia production has been taken over by junk food manufacturers – stevia was banned by the FDA for many years to destroy small, indie family owned stevia making companies. Now the stevia industry is almost completely owned by Pillsbury, General Foods and transnational corporate agribusiness cartels.

    You also recommended xylitol which is HIGHLY PROCESSED and not remotely natural. You also recommended buying “glucose which is sold as dextrose”. This stuff in the form of a pill or powder is almost identical to white sugar.

    If you want glucose – eat ORGANIC WHOLE GRAINS which very very slowly break down into glucose. Our brain and muscles run on glucose – and we need it in the form of whole grains, beans, etc NOT in pill or powder form sold on Amazon.com or some vitamin factor.

    If you want something sweet tasting eat locally grown organically grown FRESH FRUIT which is low on the glycemic index – such as berries, apples, etc. Dried fruit is higher on the glycemic index and fresh raw fruit is lower on the glycemic index

    whole wheat flour is higher on the glycemic index than sprouted whole wheat kernals.

    there are some grains which are higher glycemic index such as brown rice, corn whole wheat – some grains are lower on glycemic index are quinoa, amaranth.

    SPROUTING whole grain kernels and cooking them at very very low temperature is the best way to eat grain. I try to avoid eating a lot of flour products since sprouted, fermented whole grain kernels made into bread is far more digestible and lower on the glycemic index

  • MARIA

    DEAR DR. I AM FROM MEXICO, AND HAVE BEEN INVESTIGATING WHAT IS THE BEST DIET FOR A FRIEND WITH ESOPHAGIC CANCER. I ALSO HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY OF CANCER (MOM, DAD, GRANDPARENTS ETC) MY HUSBAND ALSO HAS FAMILY WITH CANCER, WHAT DIET SHOULD I RECOMEND MY FRIEND, MY HUSBAND, CHILDREN AND MY SELF IN ORDER TO PREVENT CANCER? I AM LOST DR. I HAVE READ VERY CONTRADICTORY STUFF, PLEASE GIVE ME A TRUE GUIDE OF NUTRITION… I THANK YOU ON ADVANCED!!!!!
    MARIA (MEXICO CITY)

  • Ray

    Can you share what agave nectar you use? I’m looking for the highest quality with the lowest glycemic index. I bought the Mudhava brand at a local Safeway store.

  • Lisa

    Does anyone know whether ‘The Groovy Food Company’ or ‘Hale and Hearty’ agave syrup is any good?

  • Ophiolog

    Since when has agave syrup sold in the U.S. ever “gone through an extensive process of chemical refining which changes the enzymatic structure of the syrup, converting it into a man-made chemical fructose”? The fructose and glucose is already in the fructans of the sap which is heated to produce the syrup. No refined fructose is used in making the syrup, nor is it made in a “laboratory”.

    Contrary to your statements, there is no sufficient evidence to show that fructose consumed at normal amounts depletes the body of minerals, hardens the arteries, leads to insulin resistance, heart disease, weight gain, or obesity, or has toxic effects in pregnant women. People making those claims must be held to account and show proof. What amounts of fructose are they talking about? And if there was ever a case of fructose causing toxic effects in a pregnant woman, where is the evidence?

    There is no such thing as a difference between refined fructose and fructose in fruit or agave syrup. It’s just fructose. “Levulose” is simply an old name for the same sugar. Whether fructose is in free form as in HFCS or agave syrup, or bound to glucose as it is in regular sugar, the body handles it the same.

    As or Madhava Agave Nectar not being “cooked”, you are completely mistaken. All agave syrups are made using heat.

    Your article needs to be revised using facts instead of the outrageous claims of Rami Nagel. Have a close look at the amounts of fructose required to produce the effects he alleges. In practically every case, they are more than anyone is consuming.

  • Olivia

    Look into Mexican and Central American “Piloncillo;” also known as Rapadura in other parts of the world.

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