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Blue Agave Plant May Help Transport Medicine For Intestinal Ailments

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Tequila has been called Mexico's contribution to the world of alcoholic beverages. But the drink's key ingredient might also provide a health-care breakthrough.

Mexican researchers believe the blue agave plant that produces tequila also contains compounds that could deliver drugs to the colon, making it possible to treat everything from colon cancer to colitis.

Currently, many medications designed to treat colon cancer, colitis or irritable bowel syndrome can do more harm than good because they are released too early in the digestive tract where they lead to diarrhea and painful stomach ailments, Guillermo Toriz, a researcher at the University of Guadalajara, told CBC News.

Researchers in Mexico have found the agave plant contains a high level of a carbohydrate called inulin. The substance is credited with helping digestion, reducing cholesterol and retaining more calcium in the body.

"Inulin is very good to the digestive system because it helps you to grow good bacteria," Toriz said. "So the bad bacteria die. It helps to absorb lipids and controls cholesterol."

Toriz said that because inulin doesn't break down in the stomach, he's working on turning the carbohydrate into a hard shell. The idea is to protect and carry drugs past the stomach's digestive enzymes and right into the colon.

"We get the medication inside a shell and then this shell will take the medication right to point where it's needed. And then, thanks to some bacteria there, it's going to open up."

Toriz said the only bad news for tequila fans is that all of the health benefits found in the plant that produces it are lost when it's fermented to make alcohol.

Source: CBC News

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