Another reason agave has recently gained popularity as a “healthier” sugar is because of its low score on the glycemic index, a scale used to measure how much a food raises a person’s blood sugar.
For this reason, agave nectar has even been deemed “diabetic friendly” by some manufacturers. However, the American Diabetes Association cautions against all forms of excessive sugar intake, including agave.
Additionally, agave nectar or syrup is actually most nutritionally similar to high fructose corn syrup, which is processed a bit differently in the body than sucrose (white or table sugar) and other forms of sugar. This difference in nutritional functionality actually may hinder health instead of enhance it.
According to research from the Journal of Clinical Investigation, individuals who consumed similar amounts of concentrated fructose (i.e. agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) were found to gain greater amounts of unhealthy fat, were more likely to be insulin-resistant and found to be at greater risk for developing diabetes and heart disease than those who consumed similar amounts of concentrated glucose (i.e. table sugar, brown sugar, honey, etc.).
In general, besides having a lower glycemic index than that of other sugars, agave nectar/syrup does not appear to offer any additional health advantages over other varieties of sugar and may even aid in the promotion of unhealthy weight gain, heart disease and diabetes when consumed in excess.
Nowadays, the most common form of excess sugar consumption tends to be in the form of sweetened beverages such as soda, sport and energy drinks, and even fruit juices.
All that excess sugar, even from natural sources (like honey and juices), can lead to an array of health problems such as tooth decay, weight gain, poor nutrition and increased triglyceride levels, which negatively affect cholesterol.
Thus, when it comes to all sugars — natural, refined, processed, etc. — moderation is truly key when having your cake (and eating it, too).
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.