Time and time again, since 2003, four years before my book Sugar Shock! was published in December 2006, I’ve been warning people that agave is not safe. In fact, I’ve been telling people, it may be worse for you than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Again, for some seven years now, whenever people have asked me if agave is a good idea to use, my answer has always been the same:
“Stay away from agave, because it’s very high in fructose and may have more fructose than high fructose corn syrup.”
For years, I’ve been sadly observing and warning people that agave is a marketing scam (if not a stroke of brilliant promoting).
Agave is one of the biggest dupes of the health food industry.
Increasingly, I’ve become more and more frustrated and annoyed as more and more new “health products” in health food stores and desserts (or even entrees) served in health food restaurants have become sullied and made unhealthy by adding agave. Worse still, these products are almost always marketed as being healthy.
Sadly, I’ve had to become quite wary and vigilant about eating anything that I find in a health food store or even a health food restaurant, because inevitably, they use agave — and a lot!
Unfortunately, my cautions often have fallen on deaf ears.
Interestingly, when my book Sugar Shock! came out in December 2006, it seemed like I was one of only a handful of people raising questions about agave’s safety and its potential dangers.
For instance, in my book, Sugar Shock! (in Chapter 22, on pages 307 to 308, in the Frequently Asked Questions chapter), I warned that:
- Agave is a non-GRAS (not generally recognized as safe) label for highly refined fructose, which is metabolized in your body like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
- Agave has “twice the intensity and sweetness of high-fructose corn syrup,” according to food and beverage formulator Russ Bianchi.
- Overconsuming HFCS, as you can learn from listening to one episode of my Gab with the Gurus Radio Show, has been linked with a host of health ailments, including heart disease, cancer, obesity and metabolic synmdrome. And HFCS is found in thousands of processed foods, which you can learn about in this 3 Minute Ad Age piece, for which I was interviewed. (Watch the short YouTube video here.)
- Agave may not even be from the Mexican cactus plant, according to experts, because there’s been a shortage of blue agave, which is also used to make tequila.
For years, I never expressed this alleged concern in writing, because I didn’t have proof.
As a trained journalist, it’s imperative to verify facts, and I needed additional substantiation before I could go public with this.) But then other people began to make the same claims that your agave may really be HFCS. Yikes!
Over the years, just about whenever I gave a talk, attended a conference, or offered tips online or in my then-active KickSugar group (which has been moved to Facebook), people would inevitably ask me agave.
Time and time again, while the questions about agave kept coming, I felt compelled to set the record straight about this increasingly popular sweetener.
- For instance, a year after my book was released, in late 2008, I again spoke out publicly against agave on this Sugar Shock Blog.
- Again I cautioned against agave in April 2009.
- I wrote about again again in May 2009.
- And I alerted people once more in December 2009.
- Now, once more, in March 2010, people seem to need information about agave.
Interestingly, despite my very vocal and strong objections to agave, a number of my health-oriented friends and colleagues, including some from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (a wonderful nutrition school I attended), refused to believe my anti-agave rant.
Alas, too many of my colleagues continued to rave about agave’s wonderful, sweet taste. Worse still, they would distribute recipes that suggested using agave nectar. Brr! Always, I would silently shudder in horror.
Thankfully, in recent years and especially months, a number of other health experts have joined me in discussing the dangers of agave.
As best as I can reconstruct it, here’s the timeline.
- In December 2006, when my book Sugar Shock was published, I warned against agave.
- In March 2008, Julie Deardorff, a Chicago Tribune journalist I greatly admire, because she’s often ahead of the curve, wrote one of the first articles to raise questions about agave.
- In November 2008, Natural News published this article, “Agave Nectar, the High Fructose Health Food Fraud” from writer Rami Nagel, author of Healing Our Children. (He also co-authored the Weston Price piece.)
- In November 2008, popular health expert Kevin Gianni spoke out against agave on his Renegade Health Show, also asked, “Is There Corn Syrup in Agave Nectar?”
- In April 2009, the Weston Price Foundation’s Sally Fallon and author Rami Nagel called “Agave Nectar: Worse Than We Thought.”
- In July 2009, Dr. Joseph Mercola called agave a “Triumph of Marketing Over Truth.”
- In October 2009, Kevin wrote and talked on his Renegade Health Show about Agave Nectar Clinical Trials Stopped Due to Severe Side Effects in Diabetes. Kevin wrote about agave other times, too.
- Then, in his article for Living and Raw Foods, “The Truth about Agave Syrup: Not As Healthy As You May Think,” John Kohler revealed that “those within the industry who I have spoken to at various trade shows… say that some of the agave syrup is “watered down” with corn syrup before it is exported to the USA.” This is done, he explains, because agave syrup is expensive and high fructose corn syrup is cheap. (He was reiterating what I’d d heard before, but, as I said above, I hadn’t published it yet because of my desire to find additional validation. FYI, I can’t find the date.)
- Then, in April 2010, much to my joy, respected nutrition expert Dr. Jonny Bowden also came out against agave syrup. Go, Jonny!
- And today, the respected Dr. Joseph Mercola spoke out against agave again, calling it worse than high fructose corn syrup, arriving at the same conclusion I voiced years ago.
So, maybe you didn’t believe me before, because I was a lone voice in the dark.
Now, I urge you — heck, I plead with you, those of you health-minded people, who didn’t t believe me before — please read all these other sources, too.
To conclude, if you care about your health, stay away from agave!
Of course, I realize that my stay-away-from-agave advice inevitably leads to your next question: “What sweeteners can I have?”
While I’m not a fan of using any sweeteners or sugars other than real, low-sugar fruit — and that includes honey, barley malt, brown rice syrup or maple syrup — I do believe that some sweeteners are better than others, and some make good transitional sweeteners. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about that.