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Could agavins from the tequila plant help treat type 2 diabetes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Tequila plant might help type 2 diabetes.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society (ACS) are studying a sweetener known as an agavin from the tequila plant that shows promise for aiding weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes. The sweetener comes from the agave plant and could be a natural approach that adds fiber to the diet to control blood sugar without raising glucose levels.

Why agavins for diabetes?

Tequila is made from the Agave tequilana Weber or blue agave plant. Agavins found in the plant are non-digestible.

Agavins are considered healthy because they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the mouth and intestines. The sugar has no side effects the authors explain, with the exception of intolerance by some people.

"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 (glucagon-like peptide-1) in a press release about the finding that was presented at the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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To help understand further, GLP agonists are currently used drugs that treat type 2 diabetes. Examples include Byetta and Victoza that also have been shown to lead to weight loss. GLP-1 is released after eating and is responsible for maintaining glucose balance. The hormone also slows gastric emptying, which is turn helps us feel full for a longer period of time.

Unlike high fructose corn syrup agavins are long-chained fructans that can't be used by the body, López says. Agavin from the tequila plant is different from agave nectar or syrup sold in health food stores that are similar to high fructose corn syrup and is not as sweet.

It's also important to note that by the time tequila is processed the agavin is absent. The sweet plant compound is used in fermentation and is a carbohydrate.

"This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar,'" López said.

It's also important to note the study was done on mice who lost weight when given the tequila plant compound. Avagin also lowered blood sugar levels, compared to glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave syrup and aspartame. More studies would show if the tequila plant could indeed be beneficial for diabetes blood sugar control and weight loss. Mouse studies don't always translate to humans.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons