The Truth About Agave Nectar

Agave Nectar is a natural sweetener made from the juice of the agave, a plant native to Central Mexico. It is a versatile sweetener with a low glycemic index (32) perfect for coffee, smoothies, tea and more. It has 1.4 times the sweetness of white sugar but less viscosity than honey. While there is no such thing as a “healthy” sweetener – we recommend everything in moderation – this is a great natural alternative.

Above are flavored varieties of Madhava Agave Nectar, it also comes in Light & Amber.

A recent article by Dr. Mercola, an online alternative-health personality, suggests the use of agave as a sweetener is somehow harmful. This statement is based on half truths and to prove it we’re taking you right to the source – OUR source – for real, all-natural agave nectar: Madhava.

From Madhava’s Agave Mythbuster website:

“Dr. Mercola is mistaken as regards agave nectar. Agave’s rise in popularity is due to its quality and appeal which have led to widespread demand for it by consumers worldwide. Dr. Mercola though insinuates that agave’s success is simply the result of clever marketing, and this is far from the truth. His presentation of this article and unsubstantiated opinions is to us a real example of negative marketing as he clearly uses fear in lieu of fact to promote his agenda. Dr. Mercola appears to be leading the reader down a biased path to a negative conclusion. He has used fear tactics to propagandize against agave nectar and Madhava feels that this is outrageous and must be answered.

Click here to read an article released [March 23], based on scientific research, and right in Mercola’s field as an osteopathic physician, [this] is an example of actual research he chooses not to reveal to his readers in his attempt to bias them. He has been selective in the information he disseminates and this severely limits his credibility on the subject of agave.

This is disheartening, because so many people rely upon Dr. Mercola for their alternative health information. People are being led to believe that use of agave to sweeten is somehow harmful and this is not the case. There is hard evidence to the contrary, and only negative associations and suppositions to form the attack.

To address Dr. Mercola’s claims:

1. Poor Quality Control. There are very few quality controls in place to monitor the production of agave syrup. Nearly all agave sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico. Industry insiders are concerned that agave producers are using lesser, even toxic, agave plants due to a shortage of blue agave.

This is an outright fabrication. Madhava’s Quality Control representatives routinely visit and inspect all our suppliers’ facilities in Mexico. The suppliers are Organically Certified and 3rd party audited or in the process of being so. Each has an in house laboratory for analysis and quality control. In addition our facility in Colorado is USDA Organic Certified and we are routinely inspected as well. Mercola makes it sound like these are poorly run, low budget operations in Mexico, and this could not be further from the truth. These are immaculate facilities that are conducted extremely professionally, run by highly intelligent individuals with high standards that easily meet international levels. Madhava is quite fortunate to be working with such reputable companies. And, it has been well documented in newspapers both in Mexico and the US that there has been an overabundance of supply of agave plants, not a shortage in any way. Madhava staff has personally witnessed fields left to go to seed after eight years invested due to the current surplus. Dr. Mercola fabricated his statement to shamefully suggest “toxic” plants could be used and create more unwarranted doubt. If he had facts he would not need to resort to fear.

2. Pesticides. There are also concerns that some distributors are cutting agave syrup with corn syrup — how often and to what extent is anyone’s guess. In addition, the FDA has refused shipments of agave syrup due to excessive pesticide residues.

Any concerns are due only to rumors such as this. Madhava’s Agave Nectar is 100% pure from the agave plant with no additives whatsoever. We package the agave nectar at our own facility by the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Madhava would be very interested in his source of information about the FDA refusing shipments. We know without a doubt that none of our shipments have ever been refused and turned back, and know of no others that have been either. We believe Dr Mercola would post a fact or cite an example if he had one.

3. Saponins. Agave is known to contain large amounts of saponins. Saponins are toxic steroid derivatives, capable of disrupting red blood cells and producing diarrhea and vomiting. There is also a possible link between saponins and miscarriage by stimulating blood flow to the uterus, so if you’re pregnant, you should definitely avoid agave products.

This is clearly a cruel scare tactic. The fact is that saponins are in a lot of foods we eat. There are many varieties just as there are over 200 varieties of the agave plant. Most beans and legumes, soya beans, onions, paprika, alfalfa – these all contain saponins. Saponins are phytosterol compounds that occur naturally in some plants. Saponins have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, along with anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties. As for agave syrup, there is no evidence to cause concern, there has never been a report of agave nectar linked to a miscarriage, and there is a long history of use. From the prehispanic times, the only sweet treat available to Indians in Mexico was the cooked leaves of the agave plant. They are still in markets all over Mexico. If there would be any kind of dangerous substance, this would be the absolute extreme case of exposure to it; not a single case of any problem has ever been documented, this goes back over seven centuries. Agave Nectar in its present form has been sold for over 12 years all over the world, including western Europe, Japan and the U.S.. The product has a proven record of safety and is deemed safe by the FDA and all regulatory bodies all over the world.

4. Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). Some agave syrups contain a contaminant called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF, also called 5-hydroxymethyl furfural), an organic heat-formed compound that arises in the processing of fructose — in both agave syrup and HFCS. HMF has potential toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic effects[iv]. HMF is EXTREMELY toxic to honey bees, which is a problem since commercial beekeepers feed HFCS to the bees to stimulate honey production when field-gathered nectar sources are scarce[v].

Some agave is thermally processed. They can have a resulting HMF content of 5-7 milligrams per kilogram. To put this into perspective we are talking about 5 parts per million. Raw agave may be a bit higher due to longer periods of heating at the lower temperatures, but still negligible and presents no health concern. Agave produced enzymatically will be HMF free. HMF is also commonly found to a much greater degree in wine.

5. Nutrient Void. Agave syrup is not a whole food — it is fractionated and processed, devoid of the nutrients contained in the original, whole plant.

But, you can’t use the whole plant to sweeten your foods. There is no sweetener that is a whole food, that is the nature of them. His charge is meaningless in reference to sweeteners. Sugars are not consumed as a meal, they are ingredients and an important part of a balanced diet.

6. Enzymes. Agave syrup is not a live food. The natural enzymes are removed to prevent agave syrup from fermenting and turning into tequila in your food pantry or cabinet.

Actually, tequila is distilled so you unfortunately will not be able to produce it in your pantry. Digestion though is accomplished by enzymes, to break food down into a simple form which can easily be absorbed. Like honey, agave is already in its simple form and does not require digestion, enzymes nor exertion for our system to utilize them.

7. Addictiveness. Agave is, for all intents and purposes, highly concentrated sugar. Sugar and sweeteners wreak havoc on your health and are highly addictive.

Sugar and sweeteners are an important part of one’s diet. People enjoy them and will use them. The important message is to moderate the overall consumption of sweeteners and calories in general. In the context of a normal everyday balanced diet, Mercola’s views are not substantiated.”

As always, we research every product in our stores and stand behind Madhava’s response. However we do agree with Mercola on one thing – his website states “You are wise to question whom you can trust when it comes to maintaining, enhancing or rebuilding your health . . . It is essential to ask, ‘What is their real motivation?’” We leave it up to you to review his website (and online store of his own private-label products) and decide for yourself who you should trust.


One response to “The Truth About Agave Nectar

  1. I am so glad I found your website. I want to have my article published in Natural awakenings about Agave nectar since I tasted it by adding it to my herbal tea when I had an intestinal flu. I got discouraged after I read Dr. Mercola’s website. Now I am rewriting my article…
    By the way, I like to ask your permission to reprint any recipe you have on pumpkin pie or any other holiday recipes with agave nectar in it.

    Erlinda Tom RN, BSN LMT
    P.S. I believe in Alternative Healing Modalities

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