Worth a Shot? An RD Fact-Checks That New Tequila Weight-Loss Study

Spoiler: you didn't really think I was going to tell you to drink tequila to lose weight?

Tequila diet: Nine tequila shots sit on a scale.

(Photo: Getty)

It seems like everyone in health-and-wellnessville is buzzing about a recent study that discovered an ingredient in tequila may have weight-loss and blood sugar lowering properties. Could it be true? Has the tequila fairy granted us the ultimate wish?

Don’t grab the Patron just yet, people.

The study was done on rats (typical, but—shocker—you rarely read that in the headlines!). And it showed that when rats—i.e., not peopleconsumed agavins, an ingredient used to make tequila, their appetites decreased and they lost weight.

Before I get into agavins, I want to reiterate that the study was done on RATS. Even though we’re genetically similar, we aren’t rodents IRL. My general rule of thumb about promoting new nutrition studies: unless they are conducted with humans, I don’t treat them as 100-percent credible fact. Rats just don’t cut it for me.

Now onto agavins—they sound like they might be related to agave syrup, but they aren’t. They’re two different things, although they both come from the agave cactus. Agave syrup, although touted as a “healthier” sweetener, is actually very similar in fructose levels to high-fructose corn syrup and isn’t what I would call a healthier option. Instead of looking at agave, scientists turned their focus toward agavins, which many hoped might act as potential new sweetening agent for food.

Agavins are non-digestible carbohydrates, which means our bodies treats them like fibre. That means *theoretically* agavins could make you feel fuller for longer and eat less because of it, which is likely what the rats experienced. The study showed that when rats ate agavins, they produced the hormone GLP-1, which does slow the rate of digestion. It also suggested that agavins may have supported the gut health of the rats. So, I can hear you thinking, Abby, doesn’t that mean we have a winner?

Not so fast.

I’m about to rain on your parade in a big way, but for my first trick, I’m going to use this whole tequila weight-loss media frenzy to show you to why you should be skeptical about nutrition studies that make big headlines. This is a classic example of making something out of nothing at all. (Sorry, but surely you didn’t really think I was going to tell you to drink tequila to lose weight?)

When the tequila study broke, did you notice how many headlines were along the lines of “Tequila is GOOD FOR YOU”?

Here’s the thing: the rats in the study were given agavins added to water to drink. They did NOT drink tequila. OMG drunk rats? Didn’t happen.

So the headlines are wrong. Big time. While agavins are used in the making of tequila, there are barely any agavins in tequila at all! In fact, during the tequila-making process, most of the agavins turn to ethanol. It even says that in the study’s press release.

So what’s the big story? Um, there isn’t one—unless you’re a mildly overweight rodent who likes agavins in water.

Bottom line: if there’s a new, amazing nutrition discovery—trust me—it will be researched on humans as well as rats. Which is why it’s always necessary to have a healthy dose of skepticism around new nutrition studies.

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