Agave Nectar Controversy

[Thanks to drinksnob for the comment below.  I have attempted to correct any errors in my article.]

There has been a lot of talk recently by how bad or good for you Agave Nectar may be.

Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

Madhava’s Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy

First, let’s get this out of the way: No matter how the producers attempt to frame their products, Agave Nectar is not a traditional Aztec sweetener.  It was, according to one producer, invented in the 1990s.

The Agave Juice may be harvested in a way that is relatively benign and favors small farmers or it may be a large industrial operation.

The Madhava Agave Nectars insist that they only buy from small farmers who run sustainable farming operations. Other companies may not be so benign.

The complex carbohydrates in Agave Pinas are indigestible to humans without being transformed into sugars.

There are currently three ways to do this.

First they can be heated, as is done for Tequila.

Second natural enzymes can be introduced, as in Pulque or Chicha.

Third chemical enzymes can be used, in a process similar to the manufacture of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The sugars produced by this process are primarily Fructose and Glucose.

While the percentages of these sugars produced vary, in most brands, more Fructose is produced than Glucose. Some brands can be more than 90% Fructose. Fructose is perceived as sweeter than many other commonly used sugars, thus smaller volumes can be used to sweeten than other sugars. This is good for diabetics.

Agave Nectar is essentially an invert syrup, similar to Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Steen’s Cane Syrup.  Like other sugars, fructose needs to be processed primarily by the liver to be metabolized.

The queue (or metabolic pathway) for processing fructose is less efficient than the process by which other sugars can be broken down.  It thus enters the blood stream at a slower rate. This is good for diabetics.

However, it is also more costly to your body to process Fructose than it is to process other sugars.

Recent studies on High Fructose Corn Syrup indicate that it may be far worse for those who consume large quantities than even us HFCS scare mongers had previously thought.

Over consumption of Agave Nectar may have similar risks.

But all the conclusions on HFCS are based on its ubiquity in the American food stream. Agave nectar, while similar, is nowhere nearly as widely consumed.

With either, in terms of cocktails, the primary poison is always alcohol. However bad Agave nectar is for you, it is probably always dwarfed by how bad Alcohol is for you.

As always, I am not a scientist, and these conclusions are mine alone based on the research I have done.  Please feel free to draw your own conclusions and/or prove me wrong.

Madhava’s Craig Gerbore Responds to Agave Nectar Controversy

5 thoughts on “Agave Nectar Controversy

  1. Erik, I hate to be a nit-picker, but fructose is actually a monosaccharide; a fructose and a glucose molecule, linked by an ether bond, form sucrose, which makes up common table sugar. Thus, fructose is actually a more simple sugar than table sugar. The most commonly used type of HFCS is a 55/45 blend of pure fructose and glucose syrups, yielding a sweetness more-or-less equivalent to table sugar (and a roughly equivalent monosaccharide ratio post-small intestine). It is worth noting that the liver is also involved in sucrose digestion – after it is broken down into monosaccharides in the digestive tract, both glucose and fructose pass through the liver, although glucose is minimally processed, because other parts of the body can take advantage of it directly.

    The main advantage (aside from political tariff issues) of fructose syrups is that they do not crystallize and are hygroscopic, meaning that they are more easily blended into liquid foods and may help maintain a desired moisture content or water activity. It is now generally thought that diets excessively high in fructose are a possible cause of a number of chronic ailments, but it is simplistic to blame fructose only because it must be processed in the liver. Galactose, the third dietary monosaccharide (and a component of lactose) is also processed by the liver, as are many other nutrients. It is highly unlikely that combining alcohol and fructose is a major risk. Like all things, sugars of any type should be consumed in moderation, and I avoid HFCS mostly because of the agricultural politics that spur its continued use.

    Agave syrup is marketed mostly at people who believe anything with a natural or rustic source must be good for them. Often they fail to research the backgrounds of the foods they consume, relying only on word of mouth or advertising, and are shocked and disappointed when confronted with the processing inherent in their new super-food.

    So should anyone use agave syrup? It is a convenient, shelf-stable sweetener, so I guess it’s a fine substitute for simple syrup, but as it’s often more expensive than buying even free-trade sugar, I’m not sure it’s really worth it.

  2. Gee…might someone choose to use agave nectar in a cocktail because they like the taste it adds, rather than because it’s “natural” or “healthier” for you?

  3. Pingback: HFCS (NOT!) Fun | Underhill-Lounge

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