Too sweet to be true? A sugar from the tequila plant may help diabetics slim down, according to recent research presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting.
When researchers fed some mice water spiked with agavins—a type of indigestible sugar called a fructan—the animals ate less, lost weight, and reduced their blood sugar more than mice on a control diet. Since agavins aren’t metabolized by the body, they can’t spike glucose levels, explains study co-author Mercedes G. López, Ph.D.
But before you get too excited about this miracle sweetener, remember: This research was done on animals, and agavins aren’t on the market right now. Most importantly, though, agavins aren’t the same as agave nectar, so “the agave syrup” diet will not be the newest thing. [Tweet this fact!]
Yep, it is confusing. Both agavins and agave nectar come from the same plant, and agave syrup is made by cooking agavins. But that process is far from natural (seriously, look it up on YouTube) and agave nectar doesn’t have any health benefits, López says. (In fact, it's one of our 6 "Healthy" Ingredients You Should Never Eat!)
More alarming, agave syrup is often marketed to diabetics, but it can actually make you gain weight and worsen symptoms, says Alison Evert, R.D., who co-authored the 2013 position statement on nutrition recommendations for diabetics. Just like high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup is packed with fructose. And while it won’t spike your blood sugar as much as regular table sugar, all that fructose is processed by your liver, which can tack on excess belly fat. Plus, 2013 research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fructose scrambles hunger signals, making you more likely to overeat.
The good news: Agavins might be available in as little as a few months, López says. Until that happens, stick with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to sweeten foods. And if you are diabetic, save sweets for special occasions and load up on nutrient-rich vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruit, and lean meats on a daily basis, the American Diabetes Association recommends.
What do you think about all of this agave news? Have you ever been fooled by a seemingly "healthy" ingredient? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.