Tea Time – 9-12-1015 — Big Herb

I have not yet figured out why there is a human propensity to distrust peer-reviewed studies and basic science. Sugar is a case in point. High fructose corn syrup is villianized but agave syrup is good for you? A quick use of a search engine and a restriction to .gov and .edu provides information describing the chemistry of both. (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002444.htm) Agave syrup (nectar?) turns out to be fructose. Corn syrup turns out to be glucose syrup.

Dig further and one finds that high fructose corn syrup is what you get when you use an enzyme (xylose isomerase) to convert the glucose in regular corn syrup into fructose (An enzyme is a protein that serves a particular biochemical function such as breaking or combining molecules). Thus, the main sweetener in agave syrup is chemically the same as high-fructose corn syrup. But, is it bad?

Too much of anything is bad. Sugars (anything that ends with ‘ose’) are empty caloric units and thus can be problematic. If you consume 3500 extra calories (technically kilo-calories) above your normal daily requirements, you have the makings of an additional pound of energy stored as fat.

So, why do we crave sugars? Why do we crave fats? Well, from an evolutionary point of view, we are the descendants of hunter-gatherers who were most likely to survive if they could sense and consume scarce high-calorie food sources would seem to be the most likely reason.

So, back to agave syrup. Why is it marketed as natural and better for you? Well, because it is a great way to extract money from a consumer. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements nor provide guidance on what is natural. (http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/default.htm) Thus, with it being under-funded, few of these products are tested unless someone complains.

So, no one controls dietary supplements.  To me, that means be afraid.  Many people fear “Big Pharma,” the companies who make approved pharmaceuticals.  Few people seem to fear “Big Herb,” the companies who don’t back research on their products as they may discover they are worthless or worse — dangerous.  (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/780.summary?sid=e0a31d95-c418-4ef7-a82b-75cd460101f2 You may need to go to the library to read it as it is a subscription service) .

While “Big Pharma” must go through years of clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of their products, you or I could harvest our weekend crop of poa pratensis, dry it, put it in gel caps and sell it as a supplement “as effective as echinacea” since there does not seem to be any body of research indicating echinacea is other than a placebo nor poa pratensis as other than fiber.  Oh,  in case you didn’t look it up, poa pratensis is the botanical taxonomy for, “Kentucky blue grass,” which is what grows as a lawn in many American yards.

So, one lump or two?