Agave Sugar Might Help Diabetes Patients

New sweetener lowers blood sugar and weight in animal trials

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Americans with diabetes often use sugar alternatives to manage their health. Promising animal research may eventually offer a new sweetener option that could help reduce blood sugar and weight.

Agave, the plant used to make tequila, can also be processed into a natural form of sugar called agavins.

That sugar product, in turn, might reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin production, according to research on mice recently presented at a conference.

Both effects are largely beneficial to diabetes patients, although a human application is a distant potential.

"Talk to a diabetes specialist about safe alternatives to sugar."

Mercedes G. Lopez, PhD, of Mexico’s Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, led these animal trials evaluating agavins as sweeteners.

Agavins are the fructose-based sugars derived from the agave plant. They are not to be confused with agave syrup or nectar, widely available products.

Dr. Lopez and her team fed mice a standard diet and added agavins to their water and then weighed the mice daily and checked blood glucose (sugar) levels weekly.

The mice consuming agavins ate less, lost weight and their blood glucose levels decreased when compared to other sweeteners, according to Dr. Lopez.

"This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar,'" Dr. Lopez said in a press statement.

“We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels … they also increase the amount of insulin. Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them,” Dr. Lopez said.

According to Dr. Barry Sears, President of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead, MA and creator of The Zone Diet, "The agave leaf contains compounds similar to those in catcus (nopali) that significantly lowers the [glycemic index] of the ingredient. However, unlike nopali, this food ingredient is not readily available since virtually all of goes into the production of tequila."

This research by Dr. Lopez and her team could eventually be tested for treatment of people with diabetes. That condition is marked by chronically high levels of blood sugar often caused by low levels of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.

Dr. Lopez announced her findings March 17 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas, Texas. The results have not yet been published and should be considered preliminary.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization that provides access to chemistry-related research for its more than 161,000 members.

The research was funded by Mondelez International, a snack food company, and Agavacae Produce.

Review Date: 
March 18, 2014
Last Updated:
March 21, 2014