Plant Sugar May Prove to be Healthy Sweetener
Agave sugar is low glycemic, contains fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar levels…read on! Furthermore, this might explain why tequila in moderation is easy to enjoy and doesn’t cause some ill effects of other spirits!
by Elizabeth DeVita Raeburn Contributing Writer, MedPage Today
Agavins, natural sugars derived from the stem of the agave plant, reduced weight and blood sugar in mice prone to diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to researchers from Mexico.
In the study, male C57BL/6J mice were randomly distributed into seven groups of four mice. One group received a standard diet plus plain water. The others received a standard diet plus water supplemented with either glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup, agavins, or aspartame.
Mice that consumed agavins in their water reduced their food intake, lost weight, and showed a reduction in blood glucose levels, said Mercedes G. López, PhD, of the Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato, in Guanajuato, Mexico, at the American Chemical Society (ACS) annual meeting in Dallas.
“They were, most of the time, not different from the control,” she said in an email to MedPage Today.
The study is the first to attempt to evaluate agavins — fructans that are made of long branched chains of fructose that act as a dietary fiber and do not raise blood sugar — as an alternative sweetener.
“We believe agavins have a great potential as a light sweetener,” wrote López in the ACS abstract. “They are sugars, highly soluble, with a low glycemic index and a neutral taste.”
Most importantly, she noted, they are nondigestable and act as dietary fiber. “This puts agavins in a tremendous position for their consumption by obese and diabetic people.”
López’s past research has shown that agavins reduce glucose levels and increase glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that slows stomach emptying and stimulates production of insulin.
“In certain circumstances, artificial sweeteners are useful in helping people maintain glucose control,” Nora Saul, MS, RD, CDE, manager of nutrition services at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, who was not involved in the study, told MedPage Today. “If this is all true, it sounds like it could be another additional tool for people with diabetes.”
One potential challenge with agavins is that they are not widely available. Also, while agavins have half the calories of regular sugars, they are not as sweet, noted López in her email. The latter could be solved at least somewhat by partial hydrolysis, she said.
“People must somehow understand that we cannot have the best of both worlds,” in terms of finding an alternative sweetener that is still very sweet, she commented.
There’s a significant difference between agavins and the agave syrup and nectar that are marketed as an alternative to sugar, López explained. Those agave products are made of fructans that have been broken down into individual fructoses and are similar to high-fructose corn syrup, she said.
High sugar intake contributes to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have said they are not sure whether sugar alternatives are a solution.
In a joint statement in 2012, the organizations said the data is “still inconclusive about whether using non-nutritive sweeteners to displace caloric sweeteners, such as added sugars, can reduce carbohydrate intake (important for diabetes control), calorie intake or body weight, benefit appetite, or lower other risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease in the long run. ”