Researchers say the plant promotes new bone formation.
Mexico 70

The agave plant, that spiky succulent with fleshy leaves, is most famous for being the star ingredient in tequila (when sourced from blue agave), as well as for hangovers and, more recently, agave nectar. Now a new study suggests that the plant may also have a serious health benefit: Agave seems to reduce the effects of osteoporosis.

A group of very lucky mice (albeit with osteoporosis) in Mexico were fed agave fructans, a polymer of fructose molecules that contains osteocalcin, which is a protein that demonstrates the production of new bone. Analysts at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico then examined the mice femurs to gauge how much agave had been absorbed. After eight weeks, they found that the agave-consuming mice had 50% more osteocalcin protein than the non-agave-consuming ones. Even more promising, the agave-fed mice had larger bone diameters.

The agave does not act on its own. As the leader of the project, Dr. Mercedes López, explains: "The consumption of fructans contained in the agave, in collaboration with adequate intestinal microbiota, promotes the formation of new bone, even with the presence of osteoporosis."

This is heartening news for the more than 200 million people worldwide who suffer from the disease. But it is not a good enough reason, at least not yet, to chug tequila on a daily basis.