I am trying to say away from Splenda and am wondering if agave is a PCOS- friendly sweetener? Sharon W. , New York, NY
Amy says: In my opinion, agave is not a PCOS friendly sweetener. I’ll admit, years ago I was duped into thinking that is was a natural low glycemic option. It is heavily marketed as an all-natural healthy alternative to sugar. But this is not the case.
Blue agave is an exotic tropical plant which grows in the rich volcanic soil of Mexico. When you ferment agave you get tequila. Although agave syrup is low-glycemic, it isn’t healthy for PCOS. It certainly sounds natural, but what you probably didn’t know is that agave syrup has a higher fructose content than any sweetener. Depending upon the brand it might range from 70-97 percent which is much higher than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.
As reported by Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, a fellow of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:
“Agave is almost all fructose, a highly processed sugar with great marketing.”
Fructose is really bad for PCOS. Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way from glucose (sugar). Fructose is broken down in your liver and converted to dangerous fats. Fructose metabolism is very similar to alcohol metabolism, producing many of the side effects of chronic alcohol use, like a “beer belly”
Fructose is nearly exclusively broken down in your liver (whereas only 20 percent of glucose is metabolized in your liver) and is directly converted to dangerous fats. This is one of the reasons why fructose is a leading cause of obesity. Consuming fructose can lead to NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) which is a major risk with PCOS. Read more about this disease here.
Fructose in fruits and vegetables is not the same fructose molecule you’ll find in synthetic high-fructose syrups, which are manufactured in a lab. Naturally occurring fructose comes along with fiber, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but fructose sweeteners like corn and agave have no nutritional value at all.
Also disturbing is that most commercially available agave is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals.1 Here is a partial list of the chemicals many producers use:
- Activated charcoal
- Cationic and ionic resins
- Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid
- Inulin enzymes
I would steer clear of agave and use sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar sparingly. YOu can see my list of Diva approved sweeteners here.