Time and time again, since 2003, four years before my book SUGAR SHOCK! was published in January 2007, 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."
In fact, 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, for the last few years, 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) 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 wary and vigilant about eating anything that I find in a health food store or health food restaurant, because inevitably, they use agave -- and a lot! But my cautions have fallen on deaf ears.
Interestingly, when my book SUGAR SHOCK! came out in January 2007, 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 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. And 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. 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 was seeking additional substantiation before going public with this.) But then other people began to make the same claims that your agave may really be HFCS.
Over the years, just about whenever I gave a talk, attended a conference or offered tips online, in my KickSugar group, people would inevitably ask me about the increasingly popular sweetener, especially if they hadn't yet read my advice in SUGAR SHOCK! So in late 2008, a year after my book was released, I also spoke out publicly against agave here, on this Sugar Shock Blog.
Interestingly, despite my very vocal and strong objections to agave, a number of my health-oriented friends, including those from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (a wonderful nutrition school I attended), refused to believe my anti-agave rant and 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.
But thankfully, in recent years and especially months, a number of other health experts have joined me in blasting agave and its alleged virtuousness.
As best as I can reconstruct it, here's the timeline.
- In my book SUGAR SHOCK!, published in December 2006/January 2007, I warned against agave.
- Julie Deardorff, a journalist I greatly admire, because she's often ahead of the curve, wrote one of the first articles to raise questions about agave in the Chicago Tribune in March 2008, way ahead of her colleagues.
- 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 July 2009.
- Then, in his article, "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 in Mexico 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 heard before (as noted above) but hadn't published yet, because of my desire to be journalistically accurate.)
- Next, 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.)
- Meanwhile, popular health expert Kevin Gianni spoke out against agave on his Renegade Health Show, also raising the question as to whether or not there's high fructose corn syrup in agave.
- Then, last month, much to my joy, my buddy and 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 first voiced in 2003.
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 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.