DALLASConsumer concerns about health, coupled with their requirements for appealing tastes, are driving demand for an array of sweeteners. New research presented at the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) suggests a sweetener created from the agave plant may lower blood glucose levels for individuals who suffer from type 2 diabetes and increase satiety that may promote weight loss.
The findings suggest agavins, a natural form of sugar found in the agave plant, are non-digestible and can act as a dietary fiber, so they would not raise blood glucose. Mercedes G. López, Ph.D., Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Biotechnology and Biochemistry Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, said the researchers found agavins reduce glucose levels and increase glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that slows the stomach from emptying, thereby stimulating production of insulin
For the study, the 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 their blood glucose levels decreased when compared to other sweeteners such 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,’" she said. “Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them," she said, adding that agavins, like other fructans, which are made of the sugar fructose, are the best sugars to help support growth of healthful microbes in the mouth and intestines.
Agavins are fructans, which are fructoses linked together in long, branched chains. The human body can’t use them in that configuration, so they don’t affect blood sugar. Lopez said agavins sometimes get confused with agave nectar or agave syrup, which appears on many health-food store shelves. These products contain fructans that have been broken down into individual fructoses, so they are much more similar to high-fructose corn syrup.
To learn more about how food product designers are using natural sweeteners to formulate foods and beverages with sweetener ingredients marketed or perceived as natural, download the free digital issue “Sweeteners For The Future" from Food Product Design.