Agave Syrup/Nectar = “High Fructose Cactus Syrup”

The marketing of this product leaves consumers believing it is a much healthier sweetening alternative to other sugars. All because it comes from a plant (as does High Fructose Corn Syrup). Let’s put the marketing aside and take a look at what Agave Syrup/Nectar really is.

If you want something sweet, by all means go ahead and enjoy Agave Syrup in moderation – just be aware that you are consuming a very highly processed cactus sugar. Agave Syrup is no healthier than High Fructose Corn Syrup just because it comes from the exotic sounding cactus plant. Strangely enough, it is currently the darling of raw foodists.

It is most certainly NOT a “raw”/”live” food (It is first boiled and then HIGHLY PROCESSED)(1),(2). High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Agave – are pretty much identical from a health perspective. Agave Syrup/Nectar is 56-92% fructose, with the rest mostly glucose after very heavy processing(1),(2). Other false marketing claims surrounding Agave Syrup are that it contains more antioxidants than other sweeteners. Not true. Due to it’s extreme processing it is as low on the antioxidant scale as….you guessed it…. High Fructose Corn Syrup(3).

Agave Syrup is HIGH fructose, just like High Fructose Corn Syrup

  • It has a low glycemic index, however, high fructose has a few problems over glucose.
  • It doesn’t induce the same level of satiety as glucose, so people drink/eat more of foods that are sweetened with fructose (4)(5)
  • Fructose creates more than double the advanced glycation end products, harmful chemical species that age the human body, in the bloodstream than glucose (6) (7)
  • In mice, fructose induced obesity(8), and it has been suspected to do the same in humans, in addition to increasing the likelihood of metabolic syndrome (7)(12)
  • Fructose raises blood triglyceride levels, a marker for heart disease (9)
  • Fructose is a known stomach irritant to many, so those with sensitive stomachs are wise to avoid fructose products during exercise(10),(11)

Let’s not demonize OR idolize Agave Syrup. It is not a panacea. Treat it for what it is……a high fructose caloric sugar(12)

Douglas Stoddard M.D, M Sport Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
Sport Medicine Physician
Medical Director (eload sport nutrition)
Medical Director (S.E.M.I)

  • 1. Method of producing fructose syrup from agave plants (United States patent 5846333)”. 1998-12-08
  • 2. Mancilla-Margalli, Norma A.; Mercedes G. López (13 February 2002). “Generation of Maillard Compounds from Inulin During the Thermal Processing of Agave tequilana Weber Var. azul”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50 (4): 806–812
  • 3. Phillips KM, Carlsen MH, Blomhoff R. “Total antioxidant content of alternatives to refined sugar”.
    J Am Diet Assoc 2009;109(1):64-71
  • 4.Lindqvist A, Baelemans A, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Regul Pept. 2008 Oct 9;150(1-3):26-32. Effects of sucrose, glucose and fructose on peripheral and central appetite signals.
  • 5.Anderson GH, Woodend D. Nutr Rev. 2003 May;61(5 Pt 2):S17-26 Effect of glycemic carbohydrates on short-term satiety and food intake.
  • 6. Buemann B, Toubro S, Holst JJ, Rehfeld JF, Bibby BM, Astrup A (Aug 2000). “D-tagatose, a stereoisomer of D-fructose, increases blood uric acid concentration”. Metabolism 49 (8): 969–76.
  • 7.Seneff S, Wainwright G, Mascitelli L. Arch Med Sci. 2011 Feb;7(1):8-20. Epub 2011 Mar 8.
  • Is the metabolic syndrome caused by a high fructose, and relatively low fat, low cholesterol diet?
  • 8. Figlewicz DP, Ioannou G, Bennett Jay, Kittleson S, Savard C, Roth CL Effect of moderate intake of sweeteners on metabolic health in a rat” Physiol Behav 2009 Dec 7;98(5):618-24.
  • 9. Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K (2005). “Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia”. Nutrition & Metabolism 2 (5).
  • 10. Walberg-Rankin, J. Glycemic index and exercise metabolism. SSE 64-volume 10 (1997), Number 1. pp 5.
  • 11. McArdle, Katch, Katch. pp 73.Exercise Physiology-Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance, 4th ed. Williams & Wilkins. 1996. Eds.
  • 12. Tappy L, Lê KA, Tran C, Paquot N.

Fructose and metabolic diseases: new findings, new questions.
Nutrition. 2010 Nov-Dec;26(11-12):1044-9.