Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 79: Rethinking Agave

I just came across this article on agave, a common substitute for sugar. I know a lot of you who read this blog use agave so file this under "something to think about". The article reads very similar to Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, giving some background food history and the science of agave. It is quite long so I thought I would do the work for you and extract the take-home message.

"Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer "natural" sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but are unaware that most agave is actually WORSE than HFCS."

"Depending on the source and processing method used, agave syrup can, therefore, contain as little as 55% fructose (but as high as 97%), the same amount found in high-fructose corn syrup -- in which case the syrup would offer no advantage."

"Though processing methods can differ among manufacturers, 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"

"Part of the problem leading to the confusion is that there are some natural food companies that are indeed committed to excellence and in providing the best product possible. But let me assure you that in the agave industry, this is the minority of companies. Nevertheless, these ethical companies seek to provide an outstanding product. There are a few companies who commit to and actually achieve these criteria and actually:
• Work with the indigenous people,
• Use organic agave as the raw material, free of pesticides
• Process it at low temperatures to preserve all the natural enzymes
• Produce a final agave product that is closer to 50% fructose instead of over 90%
• Fructose is bonded or conjugated to other sugars and not floating around as "free" fructose, like HFCS, which is far more damaging."

"The consumption of high amounts of sugar is what is inflating America's waistline, as well as escalating rates of diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease. Although overall sugar consumption is definitely something to be concerned about, even more problematic is one type of sugar that wreaks extraordinary havoc on your body: FRUCTOSE."

"Fructose only becomes a metabolic poison when you consume it in quantities greater than 25 grams a day. When you consume fructose over 25 grams per day it will very likely increase its metabolic byproduct, uric acid, in your blood. So you can go to your physician and have a simple uric acid level done. This is not a fasting test and is very inexpensive to do, it's typically free with many automated chemistry profiles. If your level is above 5.0 you will want to consider reducing your fructose level until the level drops below 5.0. This will provide you with a valid, objective parameter to let you know if the information I am sharing is correct for you and your family."

On the training front, all I can say is speed kills. I sort of feel like I'm back in my high school cross country days where I lived life dreading the next speed session. But what's that saying? HTFU! Off for my second run of the day.

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