We all want to keep our immunity strong these days, and if you’ve been around Beyond Health for long, you know that means staying away from sugar.
First, it competes with vitamin C to get into your cells. Immune cells cannot function without vitamin C, and they need lots of it—in an infection, your need for C can multiply by a factor of ten or more. But taking extra vitamin C isn’t going to help if you can’t get it into your immune cells. Too much sugar in the bloodstream blocks C’s entry into the cells, creating an artificial vitamin C deficiency.
Second, sugar can create dramatic blood sugar spikes followed by deep dips. Your immune system also needs oxygen, and an erratic blood sugar level can weaken your immunity by preventing oxygen from getting into your cells.
Wouldn’t it be nice, then, to have a sweetener that didn’t compete for with vitamin C or affect blood sugar levels? Well, there is such a sweetener and its name is “agave nectar” or just “agave.” Agave is low in glucose (the form of sugar that competes with vitamin C and raises blood sugar levels) and high in fructose (a form of sugar that does neither)—from 70% to 97% fructose, depending on the brand.
So, problem solved?
Well, unfortunately fructose comes with a big caveat. While the body can handle a moderate amount, any additional fructose, particularly the kind of refined fructose found in agave and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), becomes a toxin.
Toxic fructose leads to metabolic dysfunctions that are pivotal in: high cholesterol and triglycerides, insulin resistance and diabetes, fatty liver disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, gout and obesity.
And since the introduction of HFCS in 1970, the American population has been bombarded with the stuff. Cheaper than regular table sugar (sucrose), HFCS has replaced sucrose and is now found in almost all processed supermarket foods. Agave is its counterpart in the natural foods market. According to health educator Nancy Appleton, PhD, in 1980 the average person consumed 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose. In 1994, the average person ate 83 pounds of fructose and 66 pounds of sucrose. (Note total sugar consumption went up considerably: fructose also stimulates sugar addiction!)
Fructose now makes up 10-15% of the calories Americans consume; some teenagers who live on carbonated drinks get 30% of their calories from fructose.
Fructose is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, and studies show moderate consumption of whole fruits and vegetables isn’t the problem. It’s both the form and the quantity of refined fructose in added sweeteners like HFCS and agave that generally push the body beyond its biological capacities and wreak havoc.
So while a little bit of agave occasionally won’t kill you, we wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it.
To curb sugar cravings, try mixing your daily dose of powdered vitamin C with water and sip it throughout the day. You’ll be surprised at how much it helps!
- Appleton N. Fructose is No Answer for a Sweetener.
- Hartley R. Are you suffering from fructose poisoning? Life Extension, October 2013, pp. 70-79.
- Cozma AI. Effect of fructose on glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials. Diabetes Care. 2012;35(7):1611-1620.