The key ingredient in tequila could help fight type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to a wonderful new study.
The miracle substance is agavins, a natural form of sugar found in the agave plant. The reason it makes a perfect sweetener is it is both non-digestible and acts as a dietary fiber, so it won't raise blood glucose levels - and could actually lower them for the 26 million Americans and others worldwide who have type 2 diabetes.
The report was presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas last Sunday.
"We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels and increase GLP-1, they also increase the amount of insulin," said Mercedes G. López, Ph.D. GLP-1 is a hormone that slows the stomach from emptying, thereby stimulating the production of insulin. She added, "Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them." In addition, agavins, like other fructans, which are made of the sugar fructose, are the best sugars to help support the growth of healthful microbes in the mouth and intestines, she said.
López, who is with Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato in Guanajuato, Mexico, also noted that agavins can help people feel fuller, which could help them eat less.
Agavins are not the same as agave nectar or syrup, however, which have more in common with high-fructose corn syrup, López said.
Agavins are the only carbohydrates used to produce tequila. But because the agavins are converted to ethanol following cooking and fermentation of the agave pines, agavins are not found in the finished product, so unfortunately, tequila is not a health tonic. At least not the weight-loss kind.
In the study, Mexican researchers fed a group of mice a standard diet and added agavins to their daily water. They weighed the mice daily and checked their glucose blood levels weekly. Most mice that drank agavins ate less, lost weight and saw their blood glucose levels decrease compared to mice who consumed other sweeteners such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup and aspartame.
"This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar,' López said. "We believe that agavins have a great potential as light sweeteners since they are sugars, highly soluble, have a low glycemic index, and a neutral taste, but most important, they are not metabolized by humans. This puts agavins in a tremendous position for their consumption by obese and diabetic people."
Of course, theoretically, one could use agavins to sweeten one's margarita. That way, everybody wins.