Friday, January 22, 2010

not so sweet

When agave nectar burst onto the health food market, many people were excited about it as a substitute for refined sugar. But a growing body of research indicates that agave nectar — which is not, in fact, a nectar and is processed in much the same way as high-fructose corn syrup — might be as unhealthy as HFCS is purported to be.

One article even states that "agave products should carry a warning label indicating that the product may cause a miscarriage" due to its high quantities of a chemical called saponin. In the highly competitive, high-stakes business of selling alternative sweeteners to a demanding public, how do we know what to believe?

If you believed that agave nectar is similar to honey or maple syrup in being a simple, naturally derived product, you're in the majority. As this recent post on Food Renegade says:

Based on the labeling, I could picture native peoples creating their own agave nectar from the wild agave plants. Surely, this was a traditional food, eaten for thousands of years. Sadly, it is not... It’s not traditional, not natural, highly refined, and contains more concentrated fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

This article at the Weston A. Price Foundation website -- dated last April, when "Agave-gate" started to gain momentum -- explains how agave nectar is manufactured:

Agave "nectar" is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules. Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

Agave syrup is a manmade sweetener which has been through a complicated chemical refining process of enzymatic digestion that converts the starch and fiber into the unbound, manmade chemical fructose. While high fructose agave syrup won’t spike your blood glucose levels [as HFCS is reported to do], the fructose in it may cause mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

What's your take on all of this? Do you plan to investigate further? Will you pour your agave nectar down the sink? Or will you modify your intake and recognize it as a sweet treat that is acceptable in moderation?

Edited to add: Thanks to readers Kreeli and Deb Schiff for pointing us toward this link and this link, in which Madhava owner Craig Gerbore explains and defends his company's agave nectar manufacturing processes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Drinking Problems and Denial

If you have a drinking problem, you may deny it by:

* Drastically underestimating how much you drink
* Downplaying the negative consequences of your drinking
* Complaining that family and friends are exaggerating the problem
* Blaming your drinking or drinking-related problems on others

For example, you may blame an “unfair boss’ for trouble at work or a ‘nagging wife’ for your marital issues, rather than look at how your drinking is contributing to the problem. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble.

If, once again, you find yourself rationalizing your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive. If you truly believe you don’t have a problem, why do you feel the need to cover up your drinking or make excuses? Is it possible that your drinking means more to you than you’re ready to admit?
Five myths about alcoholism

Getting to the truth behind the myths that you may be using to justify your drinking is crucial to breaking down the wall of denial.

Myth #1: I can stop drinking anytime I want to.

Maybe you can; more likely, you can’t. Either way, it’s just an excuse to keep drinking. The truth is, you don’t want to stop. Telling yourself you can quit makes you feel in control, despite all evidence to the contrary and no matter the damage it’s doing.

Myth #2: My drinking is my problem. I’m the one it hurts, so no one has the right to tell me to stop.

It’s true that the decision to quit drinking is ultimately up to you. But you are deceiving yourself if you think that your drinking hurts no one else but you. Alcoholism affects everyone around you—especially the people closest to you. Your problem is their problem.

Myth #3: I don’t drink every day, so I can’t be an alcoholic OR I only drink wine or beer, so I can’t be an alcoholic.

Alcoholism isn’t defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even, to some extent, how much you drink. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you may be an alcoholic and you definitely have a drinking problem—whether you drink daily or only on the weekends, down shots of tequila or stick to wine, have three drinks a day or three bottles.

Myth #4: I’m not an alcoholic because I have a job and I’m doing okay.

You don’t have to be homeless and drinking out of a brown paper bag to be an alcoholic. Many alcoholics are able to hold down jobs, get through school, and provide for their families. Some are even able to excel. But just because you’re a high-functioning alcoholic doesn’t mean you’re not putting yourself or others in danger. Over time, the effects will catch up with you.

Myth #5: Drinking is not a “real” addiction like drug abuse.

Alcohol is a drug, and alcoholism is every bit as damaging as drug addiction. Alcohol addiction causes changes in the body and brain, and long-term alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your health, your career, and your relationships. Alcoholics go through physical withdrawal when they stop drinking, just like drug users do when they quit.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

check this out

About halfway through there's an interview. Is that Cons?