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Mexican sugar substitute makes it to UK shelves

By Catherine Boal , 22-Sep-2006

Diabetics and weight watchers are set to benefit from the release of a new natural alternative to sugar going on sale in leading UK retailer Tesco this week.

Agave syrup, which derives from the same Mexican plant as tequila, is 25 per cent sweeter than normal table sugar and releases energy more gradually - causing less disruption to blood sugar levels.

The plant contains high levels of the natural sugar fructose, as well as the sweetener inulin, and is very soluble in water making it a suitable fat replacer in baking, beverages and dairy products. Although commonly sold in health foods shops and specialist food outlets, the sugar is now moving into more mainstream consumption with its introduction to Tesco supermarkets.

The syrup will go on sale from next week at all of the retailer's outlets and will be priced £2.95 (€4.38) per bottle.

Tesco wholefoods buyer David Cooke said: "Health experts say that many people have too much sugar in their diets but cutting down can be hard for those with a sweet tooth. Agave nectar is an incredibly versatile sugar substitute which can be used to sweeten food and drinks."

Tesco are selling two varieties of the sweetener - mild, for use in hot drinks and as a topping, and a darker version for cooking.

It is expected to appeal to dieters thanks to the product's comparatively low glycemic index (GI)

While sugar has a GI of 68, the Agave syrup comes in at somewhere between 11 and 19.

The GI index rates how quickly foods convert from carbohydrate to sugar in the body, those with a lower GI release energy more slowly and do not give an unhealthy sugar rush.

The Agave plant has been grown for thousands of years in Mexico and is harvested primarily for the manufacturing of tequila which is distilled from the sap.

The nectar from the plant is widely used in Mexico but is not as well-known in the European market.

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