The calorie count and sweet intensity of agave nectar are more than table sugar. Probable agave nectar side effects include allergic reactions, reduced absorption of fructose, hypertriglyceridemia, insulin resistance and pregnancy complications amongst others.
As the name goes, agave nectar is a nectar-like sugary liquid extracted from the agave plant. This same plant is popular for deriving tequila drinks. A native plant of Southern Mexico, products based on agave are commonly consumed by Mexicans. The sweet tasting agave nectar (or agave syrup) is used in cocktails, bakery products, carbonated drinks and liqueurs. But similar to other types of sweetening agents, there are some adverse effects accompanied with the consumption of agave nectar.
Ingredients in Agave Nectar
Agave plants are ready for syrup extraction after 7 – 8 years of plantation. For preparation of agave nectar, the heart or core of the agave plant (called piña) is collected first. It is then filtered to remove unwanted particles, and the filtrate is heated at reduced temperature for obtaining thick agave nectar. Water makes about 25 percent of the sweet syrup. According to studies conducted on agave nectar nutrition, this thick syrup contains high amounts of fructose. And the reported agave nectar side effects are related to high fructose content. Other agave nectar ingredients include glucose, saponins, steroids and trace minerals.
Side Effects of Agave Nectar
In the health food industry, agave syrup is considered as a natural sweetener. Different grades of agave nectar, varying in color and degree of refining, are available in the market. You will get raw agave syrup in addition to light, amber and dark-colored varieties. One thing shared by all these products is the exceptionally high fructose content. The sweet nectar obtained from agave piña contains approximately 55 – 90 percent of fructose. Thus, the percentage content of fructose is much higher than regular white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Increased consumption of fructose is one of the main triggers for metabolic syndrome, accompanied with malabsorption of fructose. It may also cause increased formation of uric acid along with elevation of cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In hypersensitive people, the side effects of agave nectar include allergic reactions, ranging from mild skin rashes to swelling of the tongue and lips. In severe cases, allergy to this sweet syrup results in breathing difficulties. If such medical symptoms are presented after having agave nectar, stop using it and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
With reference to agave nectar nutritional value, its calorie count is slightly more than sugar, yielding about 60 calories per 1 tablespoon serving size. But, the proponents of this sugar substitute are of the opinion that it is used in lesser amounts (owing to high sweet intensity), helping consumers in reducing their calorie intake. They also claim that agave nectar having low glycemic index doesn’t cause abrupt elevation in the blood glucose levels. Thus, it is touted as a better alternative to table sugar, especially for diabetic patients. But, the downside story is, consumption of agave nectar is associated with various health effects.
In case of diabetic patients, consuming agave syrup that contains high fructose can lead to reduced glucose tolerance and insulin resistance (hyperinsulinemia). With reference to the clinical test results, agave nectar does no good in controlling blood sugar as claimed by the marketers. Rather it causes sudden increase in the blood sugar to dangerous levels, requiring patients to seek immediate medical attention. Also, consuming agave syrup increases the risk of heart diseases. Thus, people who are predisposed to diabetes and those who have a high risk of manifesting this metabolic syndrome should refrain from using agave syrup.
Some of the reported negative effects of agave nectar are stomach problems, increased body fats and inflammatory conditions. The steroids and saponins isolated from agave syrup show deleterious health effects to certain groups of people. In pregnant women, these active components may cause poor pregnancy outcomes, and at other times, miscarriages. Thus, expecting mothers should avoid taking agave syrup in large amounts. The best approach is to consult the concerned physician regarding the safety and serving amount of this natural sweetener. Know more on agave as sugar substitute.
To conclude, agave nectar is less refined than table sugar, and is popular as an all-purpose sweetening agent. But, too much of any sweetening agent is harmful for health, irrespective of whether it is an all natural or artificial product. So, using in moderation is the key to avoid agave nectar side effects in the long run. In cooking and baking, it is added in recipes that call for table sugar and honey. And for substituting 1 cup of white sugar, ¾ cup of agave nectar is sufficient.