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Are the alleged health benefits of tequila real?

febrero 1, 2021 • Tequilas

Some online content reports that tequila has health benefits. However, research shows any health benefits tequila may provide derive from compounds in its raw ingredients, not from the alcohol itself. 

Early research shows that compounds in agave, which is the raw product in tequila, may carry some health benefits. However, so far, no studies in humans have demonstrated a link between tequila and any positive health outcomes.

While it may not have health benefits, tequila may be a comparatively healthier choice than some other types of alcohol.

This article discusses myths about tequila’s potential health benefits, health benefits associated with compounds in agave, tequila’s healthy properties compared to other types of alcohol, and the potential health benefits and risks of alcohol consumption.

Currently, no research in humans suggests drinking tequila carries any health benefits.

But the Internet houses various articles promoting the findings of preliminary studies in animals. And nearly all of these early studies assessed the potential benefits of compounds found in agave.

According to a 2016 article, Trusted Sourcethe potentially beneficial compounds in agave sugars break down during processing and convert into ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages.

Some of the most popular, unsupported ideas in circulation claim that drinking tequila can:

  • aid with weight loss
  • help control blood sugar levels and prevent type 2 diabetes
  • help improve bone health and density
  • promote longevity and even stop or reverse aging
  • prevent and help treat colds, the flu, and other types of infection
  • improve gastrointestinal health and digestion
  • improve sleep
  • reduce pain
  • improve absorption and usage of certain medications
  • reduce the risk of dementia

Health benefits of raw agave

Manufacturers make tequila from fermented agave juice, typically from the species Agave tequilana

Some producers add additives and alcohol from other sources to the tequila, while other manufacturers make tequila from 100% agave juice. 

Most blue, silver, or white higher-end tequilas from Mexico contain 100% fermented agave.

Agave juice contains sugars that seem to offer various potential health benefits, though conclusive evidence of these benefits will require more research.

Potential benefits of raw agave include:

Aids with weight loss

Agave is rich in a type of sugar known as agavins. 

Early research shows that agavins may act as or function like dietary fiber, meaning the body does not digest and absorb them in the same way as most sugars.

As a result, agavins may not affect blood glucose or contribute calories to the diet. This may explain their possible role in weight control and diabetes management.

In a 2014 study, mice that ate a standard diet and had free access to water with agavins ate less and lost more weight than mice given water with other sweeteners, such as fructose, glucose, sucrose, aspartame, and agave syrup.

Reduces pain and inflammation

Agave contains saponin compounds, which might have anti-inflammatory properties. This means that consuming saponin may potentially reduce pain associated with inflammation.

According to an older studyTrusted Source, Mexican traditional medicine has used Agave tequilanaAgave americana, and Agave angustifolia as an anti-inflammatory for centuries.

The study noted all three agave species had an anti-inflammatory effect when scientists injected it into mice with swollen ears, though A. americana had the most potent effect.

Improves immune function

Agave contains antioxidants, which may offer a range of immune benefits. 

One 2019 studyTrusted Source found that agave syrups have significant amounts of antioxidative components compared to other natural sweeteners.

According to the study, tannins are one of these antioxidative components.

Animal studiesTrusted Source suggest tannins may improve immune function by helping cells communicate to coordinate a response.

Digestive health

Agave contains compounds that may aid in digestion by promoting a healthy gut microbiota, which is a community of beneficial microbes.

According to a 2016 articleTrusted Source, this is because agave contains fructans and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which appear to act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that fuel beneficial bacteria in the gut, allowing them to grow. 

Fructans and fructooligosaccharides may act as prebiotics and encourage a healthy gut microbiota, improve digestion, and reduce symptoms of some digestive conditions.

Improve bone health

In animal studies, compounds in blue agave called fructans appear to help prevent bone loss and aid bone formation. 

In a 2014 studyTrusted Source, mice fed 10% agave fructans showed increased calcium levels in their bones and blood, meaning that agave fructans supplementation can improve bone formation and prevent bone loss.

A 2016 report on the same study expands on the findings, stating that fructans may help improve calcium and magnesium absorption and encourage new bone growth in mice, even those with osteoporosis, a degenerative bone condition. 

Agave saps also containTrusted Source other bone-building nutrients, such as magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc. 

Improve iron levels

The sap from the Agave salmiana species is rich in iron. An 850 milliliter (ml) Trusted Sourceserving of agave sap can contain the entire daily recommended intake of iron for an adult.

Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

Agave contains agavins that may provide sweetness and nutrition without impacting blood sugar levels. This is because the body cannot absorb them. 

2014 study found that agavins help reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulinlevels, which regulates blood sugar levels.

Since the body does not digest and absorb agavins in the same way as other sugars, consuming agavins may also aid in weight loss and reduce the risk of obesity, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

However, most agave syrups that are commercially available contain fructans broken down into fructose sugars. The body can digest fructose, and it does impact blood sugar levels.

Agavins vs. agave syrups

The manufacturing process of many agave products strips them of nearly all their potentially beneficial compounds. 

The best way to reap the possible health benefits of agavins seems to be to consume raw agave plant material, sap, or supplements.

While many agave nectars and syrups may claim to promote the benefits listed above, most do not. Some agave syrups may even contain more calories, sugar, and carbohydrates than regular sugar.

One teaspoon (tsp) of agave syrup sweetener containsTrusted Source 21.4 calories, 5.27 grams (g) of carbohydrates, and 4.69 g of sugar. 

One tsp of white, granulated sugar containsTrusted Source 16.2 calories, 4.18 g of carbohydrates, and 4.19 g of sugar.

It is important to remember that most sugars, including agave, white sugar, and other natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, will affect the body in similar ways. Therefore, always consume sugars in moderation.

Is tequila healthier than other alcohols? 

Consuming any alcohol can be detrimental to health. 

However, some types of alcohol have less sugar and carbohydrates and fewer empty calories than others and could have fewer adverse health effects.

Compared to wines, beers, and ciders, tequila contains no carbohydrates, no sugar, and fewer calories.

A 42 g shot of 100% tequila contains 97 calories and 0 carbohydrates.

The table below shows how that compares to 1 serving of other types of alcohol:

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1104484/nutrientsType of alcohol Calories  Carbohydrates (g)
BeerTrusted Source (12 fl oz, 1 can) 155  12.8 
Hard ciderTrusted Source (12 fl oz, 1 can) 202  21.3 
White wineTrusted Source (1 glass, 180 g) 148 4.68
Red WineTrusted Source (1 glass, 180 g) 153 4.7
RumTrusted SourcevodkaTrusted SourceginTrusted SourcewhiskeyTrusted Source, or brandyTrusted Source (42 g shot) 97 0
Alcoholic malt beverageTrusted Source (12 fl oz, 1 can) 209 0.972

Health benefits of alcohol consumption

Historically, some studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to a reduced risk of heart failure in some people.

However, this link is observational, not causal, and other lifestyle factors may have an affect.

Researchers would need to carry out much more research into alcohol consumption levels and different types of alcohol to confirm any of the potential benefits.

Risks of alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing a wide range of adverse health complications, including:

Summary

The agavins in unprocessed agave contain several compounds that may benefit health. However, processed agave products, such as tequila and agave syrups and sweeteners, typically do not contain these beneficial compounds.

Tequila may be a comparatively healthier option than some other types of alcohol because it contains fewer calories, zero sugar, and zero carbohydrates. 

However, drinking any alcohol can increase the risk of developing a number of health conditions. 

Therefore, even if tequila contained healthy nutrients, the adverse health risks would most likely outweigh any possible health benefits.

Source:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/health-benefits-of-tequila#summary

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