Sunday 12 July 2015

Can drinking tequila help you lose weight?

If I had £1 for every new story where [insert your favourite alcoholic drink] is shown to have some positive effect, I could retire immediately. And, surprise, surprise - this is yet another such story that has no basis whatsoever as far as the headline goes. But it does have one interesting possibility for an alternative to sugar.

All the press coverage comes up with statements like 'You won't believe why drinking tequila might actually help you lose weight,' or 'You won't feel so guilty after that extra shot.' To be clear. Tequila will definitely not help you lose weight, and even if the implied benefit were true, which it isn't, the dangerous impact of alcohol would far outweigh the benefit. In fact the research specifically points out that the beneficial substance this report is based on, of which more in a moment, is not found in tequila.

Hidden beneath the 'drink your way to weight loss' stories is a much more interesting possibility. The actual research, reported at an American Chemical Society meeting, showed that the agave plant, which happens to be the plant tequila is produced from, contains some very interesting sugars called agavins. Instead of the usual fruit sugar fructose, these sugars are fructans, which are effectively fructose polymers. The result of this different structure is that the sugars can't be used by the body and so don't have the negative impact of sugar. They even appear to somewhat reduce blood sugar levels - and they still give a sweet taste. Admittedly not as sweet as a conventional sugar, but still offering the hope of a sweetener that has few potential side effects (some people are intolerant to agavins) and no negative impact on blood sugar levels.

It should be noted that this was a trial on mice, and was funded by a food company and a company making agave products - but that doesn't necessarily mean that the research is dubious.

A really interesting story - but almost entirely hidden by the baloney about tequila being 'good for you.'