The "Is Agave Bad For You" Fallacy
or, How to Stop Being Manipulated by Even Famous Health Writers
Who Write in Distorted Ways That Appear Factual
The Mercola article. His writing is in red italics. The responses are in black.
Joseph Mercola: Many people interested in staying healthy have switched to agave as a safer "natural" sweetener. They want to avoid well documented dangerous sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but are unaware that agave is actually WORSE than HFCS.
-- Neither the US FDA, nor the European Union, nor Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare, who combined represent countries where the most agave syrup is consumed, have found health issues with agave syrup.
Blue agave is an exotic plant...
Not true. It's found in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico...anywhere dry and with cacti...not exotic at all. In Mexico it is cultivated and there are millions of plants.
Agave" literally means "noble.
That's not true. Agave = "American aloe plant," 1797, from L. Agave, from Gk. Agaue, proper name in mythology (mother of Pentheus), from agauos "noble," perhaps from agasthai "wonder at," from gaiein "to rejoice, exult," with intensive prefix a-. The name seems to have been taken generically by botanists, the plant perhaps so called for its "stately" flower stem. From Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
It’s generally recognized as a superstar of the herbal remedy world, claiming to offer relief for indigestion, bowel irregularity.
The claim perhaps has to do with inulin, a prebiotic soluble fiber, the carbohydrate that turns into agave syrup when heated.
Just the name "agave" conjures up images of romantic tropical excursions and mysterious shamanic medicine.
Nicely poetic. But start to note that this is the florid writing style that Mercola uses in many of his writings, as a way of setting up his topic for eventual scorn and the start of his useage of "scare quotes."
These are the mental images agave "nectar" sellers want you to hold.
Again, note the use of scorn quotes. Instead of an article based on scientific argument, he starts to inject his personal contempt.
...They use agave’s royal pedigree to cover the truth that what they’re selling you is a bottle of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup)..."
This is misleading. Agave is not High Fructose Corn Syrup, and quite different from it. Yet note how smoothly he makes the comparison. Here starts the manipulation of truth and the start of logical fallacies.
[which is] "so highly processed and refined...
Very, very misinformed. What is his definition of highly processed? In fact, any of us could make agave by simmering raw agave bulb in a pot on our kitchen stoves, until it is thick and sweet. This is how fruit compote and jams are made. If that is highly processed, then so is making soup and baking bread.
...it bears NO resemblance to the plant of its namesake than a laboratory-generated. super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value.
I just had a bowl of home-made organic black bean soup this morning, puréed with onions, garlic, olive oil and sea salt. It bears NO resemblance to the plants of its namesake. What has this got to whether or not something is healthy for us?
This phrase, "laboratory-generated." Why is Mercola using it here? It's to create contempt, disdain and distrust in the reader's mind: "If it's made in a laboratory, it must be evil, and not nearly as good for you as my mom's home kitchen."
If you've ever purchased a frozen product, or canned product, a Kombucha drink, or even the fresh burritos found in Whole Foods... these have all been created in a similar evil laboratory.
But for the record, you can make agave in own laboratory, er, kitchen...just take a piece of the agave center, heat it, condense it (in other words, simmer it so that most of the water goes away), and there you have agave syrup. No need to conjure up the image of a white-lab-coated laboratory run by Bela Lugosi.
And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been especially targeted and told this is simply the best thing for you since locally grown organic lettuce.
Who has said this? Who has made this comparison? Does he have a link or source for this? Or is the author exaggerating here?
... that it’s "diabetic friendly," has a "low glycemic index" and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
All true. It doesn't mean diabetics or any of us should be glugging down pints of agave or other sweeteners each day, but nobody is suggesting that.
While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze -- that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Agave syrup has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener -- ranging from 70 to 97 percent.
There is no agave in the world that has fructose levels as high as 97%. None. Mercola either has his facts wrong, or he's once again exaggerating (97% would mean to extract all glucose from the syrup and it cannot be done)
...depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent. This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS.
Good. Now we're getting to the heart of the Mercola's stance.
It seems that Mercola's personal belief and effort is this: "I believe HFCS is evil because it is high in one of the monosaccharides known as fructose. Therefore, anything else that contains this particular monosaccharide is evil as well."
Let's start to examine that logic.
The most common dietary sugars are glucose, fructose, and galactose. These are six carbon mono-saccharides and are the building blocks of most other biologically important sugars, ones that have been used by humans since recorded history. Glucose is also known as dextrose because it is a member of a broader classification of sugars known as dextrins. Dextrins are named because they bend polarized light to the right (dextrorotatory is the term chemists use to describe this physical property). Fructose is also known as laevulose because it bends polarized light to the left (levorotatory is a term chemists use to refer this physical property).
By the way, where is sucrose in this mix? Sucrose is simply the combination of two of the above sugars: glucose and a fructose. The point here is that you're starting to see that this so-called bad fructose is in almost all forms of sweets. Not only in sweets like candy and chocolate bars, but also in virtually every fruit such as apples, pears, berries, melons, bananas, etc. Further, fructose is also found in high amounts in apple cider vinegar, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, every carrot you've ever eaten, broccolli, cucumbers, even squash.
Every whole grain has fructose. Please note that this fructose isn't placed in these vegetables and fruits by us evil manufacturers that run laboratories; this fructose is just naturally in these foods.
We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but one of the thoughts that readers may have right now is, "Well, it's not that all fructose is bad... it's the amounts in each food that matter." Fair enough. Let's briefly look at the amount of fructose in a 200 calorie serving of a few food items. Listed from most fructose to least:Food itemmg of fructoseServing sizestandard US soda beverage29,760 mgin a 200 calorie servingApplesauce, canned & sugared28,634 mgin a 200 calorie servingHoney, US, supposedly awesome26,930 mgin a 200 calorie servingAgave syrup, Mexico, supposedly evil26,896 mgin a 200 calorie servingApple, raw25,125 mgin a 200 calorie servingDates, raw, dried23,074 mgin a 200 calorie servingKetchup/Catsup19,152 mgin a 200 calorie servingVinegar, balsamic16,773 mgin a 200 calorie servingStrawberries, raw15,247 mgin a 200 calorie servingCookies, chocolate chip, commercial2,512 mgin a 200 calorie servingCorn, sweet, raw1, 116 mgin a 200 calorie servingEgg, yolk, raw, fresh44 mgin a 200 calorie servingPine nuts, raw, dried21 mgin a 200 calorie servingAmaranth, uncooked5 mgin a 200 calorie serving
This information above comes from the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. You can view over 700 other foods and their fructose levels here.
What does this mean. What can we extrapolate from the above list? I think there are 3 important things, at least for now:
1. Unless you're living on 100% meat, fructose is a part of the human food chain. It always has been, and will continue to be a part of your diet. Demonizing it is illogical.
2. Mercola suggests using honey instead of agave. From the USDA chart above, honey actually has more fructose than agave in every 200-calorie serving. It could be because he carries a line of Mercola Honey.
3. This focus on fructose levels of food is a Red Herring—it's the wrong bad guy. And you'll understand why in a bit further down.
- Mercola's article still has convinced many people that he's right. Let's keep looking at what he's saying:
Mercola: It is important to understand that fructose does not increase insulin levels, which is not necessarily good as what it does do is radically increase insulin resistance…
Show one scientific report that says that agave "radically increases insulin resistance." How much is he referring to. Is it cups per day? Is it a constant flow of agave into the mouth? Mercola is referring to insulin resistance syndrome that is now called metabolic syndrome. If so, it is the early sign of type 2 diabetics, found in obese children and adolescents. A concern to all. But what has it got to do with agave?
You see, it’s okay for your insulin levels to rise, that is normal. You just don’t want these insulin levels to remain elevated, which is what insulin resistance causes.
This is classic Logical Fallacy work here. Notice how, without giving any valid reasoning behind tying something bad ("insulin resistance") to agave, he has tied them together. They're now connected. The reader, without knowing that it happened, now equates agave with this evil notion of insulin resistance. This particular logical fallacy is called Assassination by Association. And it's brilliantly executed here.
What Mercola is pointing out is that, because fructose is under glucose in the Krebs cycle, our physiological system cannot control it with insulin. This is sophism: The control of insulin is found in the glucose system that utilizes a huge amount as a source of energy. There are many other sources of energy such as lipids, proteins, fructose, etc. that are not controlled through insulin.
Nobody wants insulin levels to remain elevated. Insulin regulates the intake of glucose, which when eating increases making the range of a healthy individual between 60 to 100 mg/dl all the time.
But the cause of insulin resistance is considered at best complex. The condition has been seen to run in families, and being overweight and lack of exercise are also associated with insulin resistance. Other risk factors for insulin resistance are:
• having a family history of diabetes
• having a low HDL (good) cholesterol level—and high serum lipids
• having high blood pressure
• having a history of diabetes during pregnancy, or having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
• having syndrome X
• being obese
Fructose has received much negative attention due to the fact that fructose can be converted into fat in the liver. The process of converting fructose into fat is related to the way the fructose is absorbed—unlike other dietary sugars, fructose is not actively transported into the bloodstream by transport proteins. Instead, fructose—be it from the banana you ate this morning, the squash soup you had last night, the Coconut Bliss that's in your freezer, or the delicious honey you just dripped into you tea—is passively absorbed into portal circulation from the GI tract. Portal circulation sends dietary fructose to the liver for further processing. It sends *all* fructose this way.
But here's where the anti-agave writers get it wrong. First, there are plenty of things we eat that get processed mainly by the liver; lipids and proteins are just two examples.
Secondly, like those fats and proteins, the outcome of fructose in the liver isn't fixed. It can have a number of different fates:
1) it can be consumed as fuel (during times of great energy demand),
2) it can be converted to glucose and released as blood sugar (during times of energy demand and low blood sugar),
3) it can be converted to glucose and converted into glycogen for storage (under well fed state following energy depleted state),
4) it can be used as a reducing source for production of NADPH for reductive synthesis (biological molecules are built by reductive synthesis). Or, god forbid,
5) it can be converted into fat in the form of triglycerides (overfed state where fructose is not necessary for any other functions and blood triglycerides are low).
Look at those five options again. I hope you're starting to get how ludicrous Mercola's argument is. To simply state that fructose is converted to fat is a gross oversimplification of biochemistry. It's a salesman's pitch. The conversion of fructose to fats as free fatty acids in the liver and ultimately release of fats from the liver as triglycerides requires a specific dietary condition. In biochemistry, it is called "the well-fed state." (that's the actual scientific phrase). In layman terms for you and I, we call this the "you're eating too much, pal, so stop blaming specific food components for your problem" state. This well-fed state of extreme elevation of blood triglycerides is seen in populations that consume very high amounts of saturated fats, and carbohydrates, with simple sugars as the major component of total carbohydrate.
While this may seem like an unlikely diet, it is exactly the trend happening in the US diet: consuming massive quantities of simple sugars, lower fat (while ignoring essential fatty acids), and less fiber. This leads to the perfect physiological state to convert fructose into fat. It is a basic understanding of biochemistry that in an over-fed state sugars will be converted into fat. This physiological state is further exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle. You may have heard this diet referred to as “SAD”, or Standard American Diet.
Numerous factors can attenuate the elevation of blood triglycerides. Dietary fiber has been shown to reduce blood triglycerides in low fat high carbohydrate diets. Omega three fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids have also shown to reduce triglyceride levels in these patient populations. Due to the effect of exercise on triglyceride levels the American Diabetes Association and National Institute of Health recommend exercise as a first line therapy for any patient population with hypertriglycerideemia.
Agave contains a fructooligiosaccharide (FOS) known as inulin. Inulin has been shown to have numerous positive impacts on human health due to the propensity for it to increase the population of beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus and bifidus in the human gastro-intestinal tract. One of the many positive benefits these bacteria provide is the reduction in triglyceride production in the liver.
Fructose has been suggested to be a possible safe alternative for type II diabetics because fructose has a low glycemic index, and has even been shown to reduce hemoglobin A1c (a marker of long term loss of glycemic control). Small quantities of fructose have been shown to even have a blunting effect on the glycemic response of high glycemic starches (Heacock, Hertzer and Wolf J. Nutr. 132: 2601-2604, 2002).
The debate over the relationship between dietary carbohydrate and serum lipid levels is not a new one. Several studies conducted in the 1960’s and 1970’s showed a relation between a high sugar (50%) and increased triglyceride levels. Two bestseller books took this idea and ran with it. The books were “Sugar Blues” and “Sweet and Dangerous”. The studies cited by the authors were short in duration (2-6 weeks), this may have led the authors to assume a false conclusion. This prompted more studies. In later studies that were longer in duration (3-6 months) it was noted that triglyceride levels normalized. This is not to say that a 50% sugar diet is safe or sane. Far from it. However, it does show that making quick conclusions from a small number of studies can lead to false perceptions.
The purpose of pointing all this out is to encourage a rational examination of the safety of common sweeteners. You only need to look at healthy old people (or my own, or your own experience with agave) to see that sweeteners used in moderation are fine for human health. Sweeteners can be included in many diets with no adverse health effects, assuming the diet is rich in complex carbohydrates, quality fats (especially essential fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids) and quality lean protein.
If you are consuming massive amounst of simple sugars, with saturated fats, low fiber, and poor quality proteins, then the least of your problems is the agave syrup in Brain Toniq. Instead, the pharmaceutical industry and your local emergency room are ready and waiting.
Agave is not HFCS. Apples, bananas, and figs, although high in fructose, are also not HFCS. But again, we're starting to talk about HFCS. More Straw Man logic.
How Agave is Grown and Produced Proves it is unnatural.
What does Mercola mean here? In a bolded section title, he says "…proves that agave is unnatural." What does he mean by unnatural? Is slicing onions and making onion soup unnatural? How about freezing dairy and turning it into ice cream. Or removing muscles from dead animals, frying them up, and eating them as steaks? Mercola himself sells multivitamins and whey powder. How is agave syrup less natural than those?
The process by which agave starch and inulin are converted into "nectar" is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.
The process of manufacturing HFCS and agave syrup are completely different and it appears that this assertion is to continue to make the point that HFCS is bad thus agave syrup should be worse. It also makes it impossible to argue with, because it's so illogical. But it's indicative of Mercola's entire article, because from this point onward, it's obvious he's literally making things up. Let's continue a bit more and then wrap this up:
The agave starch is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes…
Enzymes can be used but there is no need to do it as they are expensive and by just using temperature the carbohydrate inulin turns into 70-90% fructose and 30-10% glucose respectively, according to the variety used.
And a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids…
Wrong. There are no acids—caustic or otherwise—used in the production of agave syrup.
…clarifiers, and filtration chemicals
These are not different than the ones used to clarify the water we all drink, and used forever in the beverage industry.
Here is a partial list of the chemicals involved:
• Activated charcoal
This is simple carbon. It generally comes from wood or nut fibers, is used in any household water system, and it's completely benign. Again: why is Mercola assasinating something as healthful and useful as activated charcoal?
• Cationic and ionic resins.
The same used by any water manufacturer, FDA approved.
• Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid.
Not true. I called the top three major agave manufacturers in the world. Not one of them uses these acids in the production of agave.
This is a diatomaceous earth. It's simply ground-up sedimentary rock. How much more natural of a filter could you ask for? It's been used for centuries as a way to filter liquids.
I want to pause for a second. I hope you're seeing a pattern here. Classic Assassination by Association. It's prevalent in much of Mercola's method of writing and thinking. He's hoping the unclear reader will read it this way: "Here is a partial list of the shocking chemicals those agave factories use: Diatomaceous earth!
That sounds really chemical-y, doesn't it? It's not: it's the Spanish name for more activated carbon. Why would Mercola list it as a suspectful ingredient or chemical? Did he not know that clarimex was simply charcoal, or did he list it under dangerous chemicals to decieve? Interesting fact: the Egyptians discovered that wood charcoal (wood fired until it was nothing but black carbon) could be used to purify water, medicines, and other liquids.
• Inulin enzymes
Not true. I've personally spoken with all three of those top agave producers. None of them use this enzyme. However, inulin enzymes are a great and healthy way to help break down foods that contain inulin. If you've ever drunk tequila, then you've used a product that utilized these enzymes. They're not harmful; on the contrary, they're helpful. They're also very expensive, and they're also FDA approved. But they're not used in making agave.
Again: not true. Not used in the production of agave.
How natural does [this list of 'chemicals'] sound?
In their "natural" form, sugar beets are tasteless and a little bitter, potatoes are tasteless and pasty, yams are tasteless and hard, squash is tasteless and hard, and agave is tasteless and fibrous. All these plants turn into sweet natural foods by the application of heat, or when boiled in water or steam, all which is about as natural a process as you can get, and something we humans have done since our discovery of fire. If you go to the growing fields of any of these plants and pick one up and bite into it...you will not like the taste or texture, and it will most likely make you sick. They must be cooked to be useful to us. This is what agave is.
There is no advanced chemistry in the creation of agave. Heat and evaporation of the water of the cooked juice is the entire process and a very old process. Filtering of impurities is a common practice for any manufacturing process of liquids, uncomplicated and not very sophisticated. The process of manufacturing HFCS and agave syrup are nothing alike and to suggest it is the same or it is similar, is grossly incorrect.
As reported by Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt, a fellow of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:
"Agave is almost all fructose, a highly processed sugar with great marketing."
What would Dr Kohlstadt like agave to be made up of? What would be better? Would he prefer more glucose? More gulactose? Why? Based on what research?
Other Reasons You Should Steer Clear of Agave
1. Poor Quality Control. There are very few quality controls in place to monitor the production of agave syrup.
This is sheer ignorance to make a statement like this. Has Mercola actually been to the manufacturing plant that we use? If he has, he would see a company run with stringent quality control.
Nearly all agave sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico.
What a classic usage of weasel words (def: "words and phrases that, while communicating a vague or ambiguous claim, create an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said). I and other agave manufacturers would love to meet these “industry insiders” and show them the facilities that we use so they can report back to your audience.
...are concerned that agave producers are using lesser, even toxic, agave plants due to a shortage of blue agave.
If anything has been written about “toxic” agave plants of the varieties that are processed in Mexico, we would like to know more details.
Pesticides. There are also concerns that some distributors are cutting agave syrup with corn syrup -- how often and to what extent is anyone’s guess.
Prove it. Seriously: prove your accusation. Show just one document that verifies that our organic agave has ever had pesticides. If what Mercola claims here is true, he must certainly have documentation. Prove it.
Then, come test our agave, or any of the other US-based agave suppliers. And then try slandering us by saying we use corn syrup. Our agave is certified organic, certified kosher, and comes directly from the manufacturing plant to our brewery.
In addition, the FDA has refused shipments of agave syrup due to excessive pesticide residues.
They've also stopped tomatoes, grapes, pineapples, carrots, and anything that grows under the sun...The FDA works.
Saponins. Agave is known to contain large amounts of saponins. Saponins are toxic steroid derivatives, capable of disrupting red blood cells and producing diarrhea and vomiting. There is also a possible link between saponins and miscarriage by stimulating blood flow to the uterus, so if you’re pregnant, you should definitely avoid agave products.
Saponins are found in many common foods, including oats, spinach, grapes, wine, nuts, beans, and seeds. Chances are very good that anyone reading this has eaten some of those. Why are we able to eat those foods? Because saponins are quickly destroyed under heat, while cooking.
Saponins are in fact part of many plants and naturally protect them from insects. They are quickly recognized for their bitter taste and foam producing effects. There are hundred of types of saponins and they are destroyed whenever exposed to heat (as done in the agave syrup process).
The amounts of saponins in Agave Tequilana Weber is comparable to that of chick peas and lentils, two other foods that historically we humans have done fine with. No scientific evidence has been made to “the possible link” to miscarriage, etc of lentils. Nor, as it happens to be, agave.
4. Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). Some agave syrups contain a contaminant called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF, also called 5-hydroxymethyl furfural), an organic heat-formed compound that arises in the processing of fructose -- in both agave syrup and HFCS. HMF has potential toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Anyone who has ever done any frying, grilling, or baking has created foods that contain HMF. It's the simple browning effect know as the Maillard reaction.
HMF is EXTREMELY toxic to honey bees, which is a problem since commercial beekeepers feed HFCS to the bees to stimulate honey production when field- gathered nectar sources are scarce.
This reads as if "what is toxic to bees is toxic to humans." Some people can’t eat shell fish...does this shell fish toxicity to some makes it bad to all? My own bookkeeper is deathly allergic to all nuts. Should Mercola write up an article banning nuts?
5. Nutrient Void. Agave syrup is not a whole food -- it is fractionated and processed...
As is flour, skim milk, carrot juice, the vitamins, whey powder, fish oil and other supplements that Mercola currently sells on his site. If the argument here is "Never eat things out of their whole form" then you're right: a bit of boiled and filtered agave plant is not for you.
6. Enzymes. Agave syrup is not a live food.
Neither are the vitamins, whey powder, fish oil and other supplements that Mercola currently sells on his site.
I'm starting to repeat myself.
The consumption of high amounts of sugar is what is inflating America’s waistline, as well as escalating rates of diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease.
So we're back to a general statement about all concentrated sweeteners. Good. We'd agree: don't make up most of your calories from simple sugars, even our own Brain Toniq. Same goes for fats, the chocolate bars that Mercola sells on his own site, and over-processed flour products. And get plenty of exercise and water, too. Also, don't eat cups and cups of sea salt. Don't overdo nightshades. Go easy on the wine, regardless of the resveratrol. Don't overdo Vitamin A and D. Look both ways before crossing the street.
Read other writer's responses:
"I just read this article by a well-known health writer, named Joseph Mercola, in which he states that agave is bad for health." Jenny S.
As the creator of Brain Toniq, and the one who chose its formula specifically to be healthy for human beings (we use organic agave as our sweetener), I was initially amused, and then baffled at the growing number of people who were and continue to be swayed by a couple of misinformed—and blatantly deceitful in some cases—articles that have been making the rounds on the Internet on the topic of agave.
Along with Mercola's article, there is also one by homemaker and author Sally Fallon, man known as Uncle Russ Bianchi, and a few others. Their conclusion is the same: that the monosachride known as fructose—found naturally in all fruits, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, broccolli, cucumbers, legumes, eggs, even squash and apple cider vinegar—is bad for human health. All of the articles contain fabrications and misinformation, but we'll look at Mercola's because his is the most humorously blatant. (I say it's funny, but it's also disheartening, because Mercola's stature in the health community is so strong, that even after pointing out all of the fallacies in his article, most will still believe him).
Along with being the owner of Brain Toniq, I am also an avid student of Logical Fallacies, the study of the structure and language of deductive reasoning. Basically, logical fallacies help us see where and how language and writing can be spun to confuse and manipulate the reader. I used to be a great fan of osteopath Joseph Mercola's articles, and linked them often on my nutritional health forum. But increasingly over the last couple years, his articles have become clear examples of the use of these manipulative methods. In the past, Mercola's writing used to offer clear, insightful, and logical ideas about nutrition and health. But he has moved from Mr. Health to Mr. Deceptive Pitchman. In this particular article that you've sent, he has fooled many readers into believing that what he's saying about agave makes sense, is backed by logic and sound nutritional science, and that he knows what he's talking about (he must be: he's famous and he's an osteopathic doctor). In fact, what he's saying—especially about agave and how its fructose components work in the liver—are simply not true. But more infuriating, he's using manipulative rhetoric to get his point across. In a relatively short piece, he is able to squeeze in over 7 logical fallacies, including manipulation techniques known as Ad Hominem attacks, Appeal to Authority, Appeal to Belief, Assassination by Association, Straw Man fallacy, Red Herring deliberate diversions, and others. It's like listening to most nightly news, but more concentrated.
Lastly, I'm the author of two books and an audio CD program all on the topic of nutritional cleansing and diet (you can find the books and their reviews at Amazon here), which have sold over 70,000 copies. I've spoken in front of thousands people on how to use clean food to clear up many supposed diseases, and continue to guide people through that process on my How Health Works site. Part of that diet was switching to natural sweeteners, such as agave, brown rice syrup, and maple syrup. You can read the results of this on Amazon's reviews, or the How Health Works testimonial page.
So, despite Mercola's:
1. multiple times that he has gotten into trouble with the FDA over his other lies and false health claims,
2. his increasing conflict of interest (trashing agave and then selling his own brand of honey,
3. his scare-tactic style of writing and use of weasel words that prey on people's emotions similar to religious panderers,
4. his persistent habit of quickly removing any logical counter-responses on his blogs and websites by anyone trying to come back with a rational argument to his points of view, and
5. insistence that agave has more of this killer fructose than honey and fruit (not true: both honey and apples actually have more fructose than an equal 100-calorie serving of agave),
…his articles of late are great ones to use as examples of the manipulative fear-based writing style that has become the norm in the health-food industry and seems to work so effectively on those unaware of how to recognize the rhetorical techniques he is using. Further, he remains, despite his move from helpful to deceitful, one of the most popular authors on natural health. What he says—and at this point, it no longer matters if it's true—holds an enormous weight in the public's eye. We could easily switch the Brain Toniq formula to some other sweetener, like the cosmic honey that Mercola suggests. It'd certainly be cheaper for us, and it would eliminate this negative press. But I so despise this kind of deception in writing. So we're going to respond.
I'd like to accomplish three things with this article:
1. To counter the recent overreactive demonization of the monosaccharide known as fructose
2. To show people how to become more aware of what manipulative writing looks like, smells like, and feels like in order to stop getting fooled by distorted information.
3. Keep a list (at the bottom) of other science-based articles on agave as we find them.
By the end of this article, you may still determine that the 2.17 teaspoons of organic agave I place in each can of Brain Toniq will harm you, shorten your life, and isn't something you want in your diet. You may equally decide that the organic agave used in Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss, Madhava products, Wholesome Sweeteners, Wholemato Ketchup, Agave Dream sorbets, or Q Tonic tonic water will prevent you from achieving your health goals. Fine. That is a decision not much different from how each of us has to make a choice on whether or not to use sea salt, unsprouted nuts, organic red meat, beer, anything that's cooked, anything that's raw, any and all soy products, dairy foods, tomatos, potatoes and other nightshades, wheat products, and fine Mexican tequila. You may determine to never again eat anything sweet except an occasional wary piece of fruit, and then only nibble on the corners and spit out to avoid insulin shock. But at least you'll know that agave is a sweetener that, when used in moderation just like all of these foods listed above, can be health-producing and fun and it isn't bad for you. You'll also hopefully start to understand how to recognize manipulative writing, and that even famous health writers whom you've trusted in the past can sometimes be really, really wrong.
- Better World Blog's article on agave (if you read only one, I'd suggest this one)
- Wholesome Sweetener has one here and here.
- Here's another at Wellsphere.
- And another.
- Pure Wellbeing has one here.
- Another by Hansen's Choice. This one points out the source of most of the misinformation, from a ingredient broker named Russ Bianchi.
- Xagave's article here.
And start studying and learning about manipulative communication styles, so that you become aware of how often they're used in the media. Not only by TV reporters, political speeches, public schools, religious groups, and other silly well-known sources, but also by those in the natural foods movement. It won't make you paranoid. Just aware.
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Osteopath Joseph Mercola. Selling his chocolate bars on YouTube. "Hey, if you're going to enjoy sweets, you might as well buy my sweets."