Q: Is agave syrup a healthier choice than regular sugar?
A: No; it’s simply another form of processed sugar. Derived from the same cactus-like Mexican plant as tequila, agave (ah-GAH-vay) syrup is being added to an increasing number of foods and beverages as a "natural" sugar. You can also buy it as a tabletop sweetener.
Agave syrup has a few more calories than table sugar (20 versus 16 per teaspoon), but it's sweeter than sugar so you can use less. While table sugar (sucrose) is half fructose and half glucose, agave syrup contains up to 90 percent fructose. That's much more fructose than what’s in widely used high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, agave syrup is often called a "fructose sweetener."
Fructose doesn't cause the spikes in blood sugar that glucose does, so agave is marketed as "diabetic friendly." But there are no studies to support this. In fact, some studies suggest that large amounts of fructose can promote insulin resistance (and thus increase diabetes risk), boost triglycerides (fats in the blood), and have adverse effects on blood cholesterol and possibly on the liver.
Agave syrup isn't even as "natural" as marketers want you to think. The plant's juice typically undergoes processing similar to that used to make high-fructose corn syrup from cornstarch; some agave products may also be diluted with corn syrup. And any nutrient differences between agave syrup and table sugar are minuscule. No sugar is a good source of nutrients.
See also: A Better Sugar from the Tropics?