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Agavins: A Potential Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners

Agavins are non-digestible natural sugars which may have future applications in diabetes and weight loss by increasing the GLP-1 hormone…. 

According to a preliminary report by the American Chemical Society, a new sweetener, created from the agave plant, may be beneficial for lowering blood glucose levels. This was revealed this past week during the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Agavins are natural sugars which come from the agave plant – the same plant which is used to make tequila. These sugars are non-digestible and may behave as a dietary fiber in the gastrointestinal tract. Being non-digestible, these sugars would not cause a spike in blood glucose while allowing the person who ingests them to still experience a sweet taste.

In the study, which has yet to be officially released, researchers fed a group of mice agavins. Researchers weighted the mice daily and took blood glucose levels weekly. They found that mice who consumed agavins ate less, lost weight and also showed decreased blood glucose levels compared to mice given artificial sweeteners.

According to Mercedes G. López, Ph.D, "We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels and increase glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), they also increase the amount of insulin." Further, "GLP-1 is a hormone that slows the stomach from emptying, thereby stimulating production of insulin." Slowing the emptying of the stomach causes the feeling of fullness, which may help reduce caloric intake.

In order to avoid confusion, it’s important to point out that agavins are not agave nectar or agave syrup. The former and the latter both contain fructans which have been broken down into individual fructose monosaccharides – therefore they are more like high-fructose corn syrup. Agavins, on the other hand, exist as a polymer. Also, while these sugars come from the same plant used to make tequila, they are not found in tequila.

While agavins are beneficial due to being non-digestible this property may also be a drawback. Since these sugars are not digested, theoretically, they have the potential of causing some nasty gastrointestinal side effects, once they reach the large intestine. It will be interesting to see how tolerable these agavins actually are.

Practice Pearls:
  • Agavins are non-digestible sugars from the agave plant – the same plant which is used to make tequila.
  • Agavins may have potential use for not only weight loss but also for diabetes.
  • This study was done on mice and has yet to be release to a peer reviewed journal. 

American Chemistry Society- Source reference: López MG, et al "Agavins as potential novel sweeteners for obese and diabetic people" ACS 2014. 19 Mar. 2014.