Agave Syrup as a low GI sweetener?


Inspirited last evening by @J_Jeffrey_Bragg concoction that includes maple syrup, I noticed I had some agave syrup lying around. Looking into it, it apparently has a very low glycemic index*.

I’m trying it in today’s mix, and so far it tastes pretty awesome. As far as numbers go, it adds nicely to calories without bumping up carbohydrates too high.


*: I have no idea how accurate this source is.


(I am not a doctor/nutritionist/biologist/lawyer/whatever)

That doesn’t strike me as a good idea. From what I can tell, agave syrup is between 90% and 55% fructose, which explains its low GI, since only the liver can metabolize fructose. There’s a long, but fascinating, lecture on why fructose is one of the biggest problems of the western diet:

The problems the professor lists include dyslipidemia, insulin and leptin resistance, increased uric acid, and deposits of fat in the liver. While I agree that keeping the GI low is a good idea, and have personally been looking to alternatives to the maltodextrin I’ve been using, I don’t think high amounts of fructose is the answer. I’m limiting myself to something around 30g of fructose daily, which is about 2.5 apples, and making sure that I’m taking in fiber with it.


@mrob Looked at the article which seems to be a reasonably decent one as material from such websites goes. I’ve seen considerable controversy on agave syrup. What seems to emerge is that it is low GI because it is very high in fructose, around 70 to 90 percent, higher by a lot than the much-maligned HFCS. Some sources claim that naturally-occurring fructose is healthier than the fructose in processed foods. I’d be sceptical of that claim and look for proof.

Here’s a [WebMD article][1] that probably sums the question up as well as any; they take the position that sugar is sugar and there is little difference in “health benefits” of its various commercial guises. You pays your money and you takes your choice, I guess.

If I had the money I’d probably use maple syrup and honey to the exclusion of the rest, though I haven’t seriously looked into palm sugar, which could be an option. My syrup is just plain old table syrup from Aunt Jemima (PepsiCo Canada LLC); first listed ingredient glucose, second glucose-fructose. At least it has a clear preponderance of glucose. (I understand old-fashioned Karo syrup is pure glucose but I haven’t seen that anywhere for a long time.)


Natural fructose is up to twice as sweet as HFCS. So you only need half as much. And at least one researcher thinks natural fructose is better for diabetics than sugar.


Better for diabetics because of the lower GI, but if you’re damaging your liver is that a worthwhile tradeoff?


I’ve had this same conversation before in another thread. Essentially we want a carbohydrate source that provides our bodies with Glucose instead of Fructose; This is why people use Maltodextrin as a source of carbohydrates. What troubled me was the high glycemic index of Maltodextrin, which prompted me to look at alternative sources, such as fructose. However, what I learned is that by adding oat powder and fiber, it lowers the overall glycemic load of the drink.


And that’s how confused – and confusing – the human nutrition scene really is. A week or ten days ago I linked a natural-foods MR vendor, I don’t have time to search for the link and re-post it here, who was treating the fructose intentionally included in his formula as a feature. When there is that radical disagreement amongst people who are supposedly professionals, what hope has the lay person of ever sorting anything out definitively for him/herself? About zero. It’s a damned shame, but I don’t know what can be done about it except for us all to wait for … more research. The trouble is, food is life, and life won’t wait on research; life is lived now, food is consumed now, and like it or not, we are all digging our graves with our teeth for want of definitive knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid.


@golidlocks: I’ll definitely be watching through the video when I get a chance. Though in the summary it looks like the majority of the argument is on ‘too much fructose, not enough comparable fiber.’

@J_Jeffrey_Bragg: The webMD article seems especially relevant and poignant on page 2. Thanks for the link!

To all: A lot of the questions arising from fructose along with a plethora of other sweeteners (including artificial sweeteners) falls in the category of ‘too much.’ There’s a law / concept I can’t remember, about how when you make something more efficient, it gets used beyond the energy it was supposed to save from the efficiency because it’s perceived to be ‘better’. If anyone has left the lights on because they have energy-saving bulbs, you’re familiar with this.

At a quick glance of studies found through, it looks like most studies explicitly use upwards to 80% of the carbohydrate content through the sweetener being studied, and then see what has the more damaging effect, with a control group on a ‘standard’ diet.

As the links / videos above seem to suggest, so long as you have comparable amounts of fiber and other components, it might not matter as much. So, definitely more of the teasing out the research that’s relevant. It might not be a bad idea to scour open science journals on the subject and start comparing their methods of research.

Sorry if I sound like I’m defending the idea, just playing devil’s advocate here with a resounding ‘needs more research’ banner.


The impression that I get from my own reading is not that adding more fiber will simply make the problems associated with fructose go away, but rather that your body metabolizes fructose in ways that are quite different than glucose and other carbohydrates. Of course it does indeed look like a person could read just about whatever they want into the research.

Personally I’m experimenting a bit with Isomaltulose (trade name Palatinose, which was mentioned in a few other threads here) mixed with maltodextrin. Just as sucrose, it’s a disaccharide of glucose and fructose, but has a different chemical structure than sucrose which supposedly makes it break down much more slowly and thus greatly lowers its GI, which is apparently 32. I believe that’s comparable to agave, but with a lower amount of fructose. Some marketing hype also claims it’s better for your teeth, since plaque and bacteria can’t use it in the mouth. It’s also quite sweet.


That sounds promising. Please keep us posted on your trial of isomaltulose. It would be nice to get the questions sorted out more clearly. It seems as though each class of nutrients presents us with another set of problems with respect to soylent formulae. Oils, starches, sugars, proteins, vitamins, elementals – all seem to present us with knotty problems that aren’t easy to iron out.

It doesn’t help that Glycemic Index is such a dubious criterion for the comparative evaluation of carbs.


I have been using Palatinose since I began :wink: - I typically only use 40-50g or so per day though, which is under the amount that the potential stomach problems from it tend to emerge. Despite the lack of issues I have with it, I am still a little suspicious… it seems almost too god to be true (wheres the catch? ;))

Sweetness seems moderate to me. It is nothing like sugar level sweetness, but I only use 15g or so per drink. If you bumped that up to the levels the high carb soylents use I could imagine it coming across as very sweet.

How it does in the higher doses people are using for carbs in most recipes would be the real question. For a low carb soylent it seems perfect though.

Golidlocks, have you used it in significant quantities without issue?


One of the objections to HFCS is that it (can) contain non-negligible amounts of mercury. According to the complainant, corn starch is converted to HFCS using a method that uses a mercuric compound as a catalyst, and that the compound is not completely removed at the end; there is no generally considered “safe” level of mercury in foods because the body is very very bad at removing it and it is neurotoxic at lowish levels.

The perception of wrongdoing was not helped when the largest manufacturers fought to prevent ANY testing of mercury levels in their product.

Whether or not there’s a real problem, I cannot say.


There was a recent article from Scientific American: “Is Sugar Really Toxic? Sifting through the Evidence” It talks about a lot of scary research on the dangers of high sugar consumption and particularly high fructose consumption. It notes that most of these studies are done with animals that are given extremely high amounts of fructose, not to mention that rodents metabolize fructose different than humans. The article notes that: “In a series of meta-analyses examining dozens of human studies, John Sievenpiper of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues found no harmful effects of typical fructose consumption on body weight, blood pressure or uric acid production.”

The operative word is “typical.” So, as long as you’re not using huge amounts of agave syrup, you should be fine. Sucrose is also another option, a vastly cheaper one, though without a GI nearly as low.

Another option, if you’re interested in adding some low GI carbs and not worried about spending a bit extra, you should probably go with grapes. The maltodextrin I’m using, which is $21 for 12 lbs costs about 10¢/100 KCal (I should note that sugar at my local supermarkets costs about 3.7¢/100 Kcal). The least expensive grapes they sell at my local supermarket, which are about $2.40/lb, cost about 16¢/100 KCal. You could eat them separately, as a side with your Soylent, or you could soak them in water until they turn soft and then grind them in your blender.


Joseph, I’ll ask you this as you are well genned up on this stuff: what is the real GI of maltodextrin supposed to be? I recently saw it given as 150! Which, if true, makes nonsense out of any of us using maltodextrin; if the GI is higher than sugar and other common (as opposed to “technical”) sweeteners, it would make better sense to use sugar which is cheap easy and available. Any sweetener which has a lower GI than table sugar probably is so by virtue of fructose content. The question of liver risk seems to be unresolved with fructose. I can’t help suspecting that table sugar is unjustly demonised for reasons that have nothing at all to do with nutrition and everything to do with money, turf wars, corporate infighting and political correctness. Maybe better the demon we know than the demon we don’t know (fructose). Or MAYBE it makes No. Difference. Whatsoever.


I don’t know the GI of maltodextrin for sure. Last time I looked into it, I did see that 150 number in one or two places, though most said it was around 100. A couple noted that it actually can vary depending on the type of maltodextrin, ranging from 85-105. All of those are considered to be high; so I don’t know if it makes much of a difference.

As far as I’m concerned, based on the research I just quoted, I think sucrose is fine, as long as you eat a typical amount. The article said, “On average, people in America and Europe eat between 100 and 150 grams of sugar each day, about half of which is fructose.” So, I guess if you’re eating less than a 100 grams, you probably don’t need to worry. And 100 grams is a lot. For the sucrose I have, 100 grams would be almost 400 Kcals.

One important thing to add, though, is that there are definite differences when you’re eating it in whole food sources versus in the refined form we are. Though fiber does lower the GI, I don’t think it does so as much as when it’s actually in the original form, like in a fruit. I mean that, for example, if you take an orange and run it through a blender to make super-pulpy orange juice, I think it’ll have a lower GI than if you were to take water, add in some psyllium and fructose and create a drink that has the exact same fiber and sugar. It’s because the fructose in the orange is locked inside by the fiber, and thus is not released until that fiber is partially broken down by your gut bacteria. The article says: “In contrast, the fructose in an apple does not reach the liver all at once. All the fiber in the fruit—such as cellulose that only our gut bacteria can break down—considerably slows digestion. Our enzymes must first tear apart the apple’s cells to reach the sugars sequestered within.” That’s why I think raisins might be a good idea


Raisins… hmmm. Thanks for giving us your take on this, Joseph. I always ebjoy reading your explanations.


Just to add my little contribution:

I’m using exactly 318g/day of Isomaltulose since two month without experimenting any issue :sunflower:


@SaladFace, I went with 0.6 cups of palatinose (120g of palatinose, so ~60g/60 of fructose/glucose) yesterday and had no problems at all. The rest of my carbs were maltodextrin, which is still a very substantial amount. I’ve never had any problems with fructose, though, and others might be more sensitive. Since I’m hesitant to add yet more fructose but would like to still reduce the GI, I’m considering adding some lactose as well, since I’ve never had any problem with any dairy. I’m wondering if a mix of palatinose/maltodextrin/lactose will be a good (and still tasty) way to get my carbs.

@J_Jeffrey_Bragg, maltodextrin has a range of GIs because, as I understand, maltodextrin is a class of polysaccarides that are chains of at least three glucose molecules. This is also why it’s impossible to find one number to tell you the density of maltodextrin, as I found out the hard way after a lot of googling. I still think it’s a better alternative to sucrose (table sugar) because maltodextrin is purely glucose and avoids any of the problems with fructose… if you believe that group of scientists and writers, anyway.

I’ll try to post a write-up of my own experiences so far in another topic. My 4500+ calorie diet with >700g carbs is a bit different than most I’ve seen here so far and is somewhat relevant to the problem of getting carbs without a sky-high GI.


Yeah, this is reminiscent to the Rhesus Monkey/marijuana study from many many years ago. They strapped masks on the monkeys and pumped mass amounts of marijuana smoke into the masks, the monkey died of smoke inhalation. And they used that “study” to “prove” marijuana was bad for humans. sounds like people with an agenda.


But if you’re using (for example) agave syrup with 90% fructose as your main source of carbs, are you really getting that much less than the over-loaded monkeys? I ask that genuinely - I’m not sure which studies are being referenced so I can’t really go and see.

Also, there are epidemiological studies that provide the basis for why large amounts of fructose (“added sugars”) have very negative effects. It’s obviously not perfect science but it’s enough to make me concerned about my liver.