Baseless, Non-Scientific Claims Behind GRI’s ‘Ban’ on Agave Syrup

by GotAgave Expert: Craig Gerbore

In response to a report from the Glycemic Research Institute (GRI), in which they call for a ‘ban’ on the use of Agave Syrup,  one questions their statements regarding the glycemic index of agave syrup and agave’s impact on diabetics. There are no other independent scientific research studies to support their claims, which are impossible to confirm as the statement posted on the GRI website is lacking information on testing protocol, data and treatments.

Publishing such information is standard in the scientific research community, where studies are made available in detail for peer and public review. To make bold statements without publishing a study or making reference to specific testing protocol and documentation of results is not an accepted method of the scientific community. This omission brings into question the credibility of GRI and their conclusions.

GRI goes to lengths to discuss glucose and some aspects of its role in both normal and diabetic persons. Nowhere do they make any direct connection between these comments and agave syrup.

I  also note that they have failed to clarify exactly what the test meals consisted of and the quantities given to the diabetic subjects.  It may not have been pure agave syrup as, according to the product manufacturer, it was a blend of agave and maple syrup. This relevant fact was noted in their comments to a newspaper reporter, but is not mentioned in the GRI website.

This is not to say that diabetics can freely over consume agave syrup. All natural sweeteners should be used in moderation, particularly by those with diabetes. Agave syrup though, does in fact have a lower glycemic index than other natural sweeteners and does raise blood sugar levels more slowly.

The GI of agave syrup has been tested several times and falls consistently into the low glycemic index category. The scientific report of one of the studies can be viewed on the IOAA website. In this study the GI was determined by a highly regarded organization: Glycemic Index Laboratories of Toronto, Canada. Using standardized methodology, the glycemic index was determined through testing on human subjects and the resulting value for the agave syrup was 17 +/- 3.2 . This number represents how rapidly a food elevates blood sugar, on a scale to 100.

This value falls in the low GI range and this scientific testing result is strong evidence of the low glycemic impact of agave syrup. This is due to the relatively high fructose and low glucose content of agave. While glucose is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, fructose is converted to blood sugar by the liver and delivered to the bloodstream more slowly.

Blood sugar is essential to our body and brain’s proper function. When blood contains low levels of glucose, hypoglycemia can result. If the blood contains high levels of glucose, the condition is called hyperglycemia.

Diabetes is the most common cause of chronic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The common symptoms if untreated are frequent pronounced hunger, thirst, and urination.

The common symptoms of hypoglycemia are produced by a lower than normal level of blood glucose. This can result in a variety of symptoms and effects but the principal problems arise from an inadequate supply of glucose to the brain and the consequences range from mild dysphoria to unconsciousness.

The fainting reaction or “serious adverse event” reported by GRI would lead one to suspect that the diabetic subjects were experiencing a low blood sugar condition, not high as some might assume.

How could this happen when the subjects were consuming a sweetener? The answer may lie in the amount of the test meal which may not have contained enough carbohydrate to balance the medication they received The fructose of agave is eventually converted to blood sugar by the liver however this takes time and is why agave raises blood sugar more slowly. It is conceivable that the combination of too little carbohydrate and carbohydrate which is slowly released resulted in the low glucose reaction. This would depend on test conditions and prior proper adjustment of their medication.

It is quite possible therefore that poor study design may have inadvertently induced a hypoglycemic reaction in their subjects, causing them to faint.

We note that in their conclusion, GRI indicates that further research is required to determine if diabetics react to high levels of agave or if it was related to other factors.

They go on to further state that prior testing (of pure agave) in more moderate doses did not instigate adverse effects.

This is somewhat less than a definitive conclusion on which to base their “ban” of agave.

As a result, we find the GRI report to be less than compelling. They certainly have not demonstrated how agave could elicit such a response and it is clear that for all the scientific posturing, no factual evidence has been offered to support the dramatic claims they have made. The lack of specific testing information to review makes it impossible to assess the methods they used, and this omission certainly casts great doubt on the validity of their statements regarding agave syrup.

As there is increasing interest in this subject, I look forward to objective, reliable, and validated scientific studies with results published in peer reviewed journals that are specific to agave consumption by diabetics. I fully expect any such studies to find no negative issues with the use of agave syrup in moderate amounts for any person including those individuals with diabetes.

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