Submitted By: Amy Sercel
Edited By: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD
Drink tequila to lose weight! At least, that’s what the headlines said recently. Even Time magazine suggested that drinking a shot of tequila could reduce blood glucose and help people lose weight. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true.
In actuality, the health benefits come from a compound called agavins, found in the agave plant used to produce tequila. Agavins are a type of carbohydrate called a fructan, or a fiber that you cannot digest. Instead, when you eat a food that contains fructans, they are broken down by the bacteria living in your large intestine. This process results in the production of a little acid – not enough to cause discomfort, but enough to slow the growth of harmful bacteria and promote helpful bacteria instead.
Researchers believe that the process also changes the types of hormones released by your digestive system, helping you feel full for longer and stimulating insulin release so that blood sugars go down. In one study, mice that were given agavins in addition to their regular diet ate fewer calories and gained less weight than mice that did not receive any agavins. The mice that ate agavins also had lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Although agavins are found in the agave plant, which is used to make tequila, tequila does not actually contain any of these health-boosting compounds. Agavins are broken down in the process of aging tequila, leaving the drink carbohydrate-free but a whopping 98 calories per 1.5-ounce shot. Rather than contributing to weight loss, it is likely that drinking tequila too often could actually lead to weight gain over the long term.
If you are interested in trying agavins for yourself, you might have to wait a little while. The research on the health benefits of agavins for humans is ongoing. It looks like researchers want to make an alternative sweetener using agavins, but this is not yet available in grocery stores. Instead, you can get similar benefits from foods that naturally contain other types of fructans, such as garlic, onions, chicory, and artichokes. While it will be interesting to see whether anything comes from agavins in the future, for now it’s best to stick to whole foods!