Everyone seems to have a crazy, tequila-fueled story, don’t they? But despite the hazards of drinking too much of any alcoholic beverage, tequila—taken in moderation—may have some benefits, but not as many as the blue agave plant, from which it is made.
Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the blue agave tequilana plant, which is native to Mexico. First produced in the 16th century near what is now the city of Tequila, the first form of tequila was imbibed in pre-Columbian central Mexico. Tequila was first mass-produced around 1600, and became popular with the Spanish conquistadors. In the late 1800s, tequila exports to the United States began.
The potential of tequila to promote weight loss and low blood sugar levels has been touted by many news outlets. However, the claim, based on findings reported by researchers at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, was the result of misinterpretation. The researchers found that agavins, a natural form of sugar found in the agave plant, promoted weight loss in laboratory rats. The rats weren’t given tequila, however, but water infused with agavins.
Tequila—the finished product—contains no agavins, as the sugars are converted to ethanol during the fermentation process. Unfortunately, this widely publicized study and its results were misinterpreted and misreported by many outlets. However, tequila does have other health benefits when taken in moderation.
The blue agave plant, rather than the tequila that is made from it, is the source of inulin and fructans. Although neither are present in tequila after the fermentation process, both have been shown to be beneficial.
- Inulin is a type of fiber found in certain plant foods. The plants use inulin as an energy source. It is a class of fructan that is prebiotic and low in calories. As a prebiotic, it is a food source for the healthy bacteria that populate the gut. Fructans are also probiotic, bolstering populations of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
- The fructans in blue agave contain natural chemical transporters, as they are not destroyed by stomach acid, like many drugs to treat gastrointestinal diseases are. In people with digestive diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis, fructans can help drugs pass the stomach to the colon. Researchers at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, created tiny, fructan microspheres to carry drugs into the colon. When exposed to hydrochloric acid for 1 hour, the microspheres remained unscathed.
Still, drinking tequila may have some benefits:
- Reduces risks of Alzheimer’s dementia, cognitive decline: In a review of 44 studies, researchers found that those who moderately indulged in wine, beer, tequila and other liquors had lower risk of dementia than those who did not drink.
- Provides numbing effects: Tequila, like all alcohol, can numb physical pain.
- Is 100% gluten free
Is life better with tequila? Perhaps so. Pass the lime and the salt, but remember, the healthiest choice is tequila that is “100% agave” and made in Mexico. And, as with any alcoholic beverage, moderation is key.