Agave isn't just for preparing tequila. It's a rich source of inulin that, until recently, was lacking clinical trials on digestive health.
Although most prized for its tequila-making sugars, agave appears to have a fiber component with an equally appealing effect-on stool samples.
Research on agave inulin now suggests that this fiber can benefit human digestive health via increased and softened stools. The cushy benefit has been observed with other inulin sources-especially the most researched of them, which is chicory-but agave fiber was basically without published clinical trials on this relationship.
In what appears to be the first published trial on agave and gastrointestinal health, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign assigned 29 adults to consume 5 or 7.5 g of agave inulin for 21 days, or maintain their normal diet without intervention. By the end of the study, all subjects completed each of the three phases. Some poor sap then analyzed stools at days 16 to 20 of each period in hopes of finding improvements with agave inulin in the diet.
As expected, agave inulin increased bowel movements, while also softening them, but supplementation came with what were characterized as mild intestinal reactions. Especially with the higher dose, agave supplementation came with slight increases in bloating, flatulence, and stomach rumbling. The benefit of “being regular” is perhaps worth the mild side effects.
How exactly inulin aids gastrointestinal health is still up in the air, but it is at least partly related to inulin’s prebiotic effect. When inulin ferments in the large intestine, the local microbial environment is altered in a positive way, and stools enjoy that.
H Holscher et al., “Gastrointestinal tolerance and utilization of agave inulin by healthy adults,” Food & Function, published online March 10, 2014.
Nutritional Outlook magazine