Yacon syrup been hailed as a game-changer for people who want to lower their blood sugar and lose weight quickly, but is this exotic supplement all it’s cracked up to be? We’ll take an in-depth look at the potential benefits of yacon syrup and examine whether science backs up the claims.
What is Yacon Syrup?
Table of Contents
Yacon pronounced ya-KOHN syrup is a natural sweetener extracted from the roots of the yacon plant, which is native to the Andes Mountains in South America. The syrup resembles molasses and has a distinctive taste that some compare to raisins or apples.
Yacon syrup recently took the spotlight in America after Dr. Mehmet Oz sang its praises as a weight loss supplement and sugar substitute on his television show, but it’s far from being “new.”
While many in the United States are just now hearing of yacon syrup, the yacon tuber has been grown and eaten in South America for centuries.
People there have used the yacon plant not only as a sweetener, but also for medicinal purposes. In Brazil, it’s brewed as a tea and used to lower blood sugar and protect against diabetes. Bolivians use it to help people suffering from digestive or renal disorders.
The Active Ingredient in Yacon Syrup — Fructooligosaccharides
Fructooligosaccharides — sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan — are short chains of sugar molecules that occur naturally in common foods such as bananas, asparagus and leeks. They’re free of calories and are considered to be high in soluble fiber, according to this study from the University of Murcia in Spain.
Those properties make fructooligosaccharides a great sugar alternative. Fructooligosaccharides have another benefit: they serve as nutrients for the “friendly bacteria” in your gut.
Fructooligosaccharides are only partially digestible in humans. After they’re eaten, the undigested portions feed Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two bacteria thought to be beneficial to humans.
Among other tasks, these “friendly” bacteria help in the digestion of food, the production of vitamins, the absorption of minerals and the destruction of toxins. In short, you want to keep these bacteria happy! Consuming fructooligosaccharides is a good way to do that.
According to the Journal of Nutrition, studies in animals and humans show that fructooligosaccharides in general may help the colon absorb minerals. This, in turn, promotes bone health. Compared to other foods, yacon syrup is chock full of fructooligosaccharides.
Between 40 and 60 percent of yacon syrup is made up of them, which is what makes yacon syrup such a great low-calorie sweetener and source of fiber.
Does Yacon Syrup Really Work for Weight Loss?
Although it’s possible that yacon syrup can help people lose weight, it’s important to keep the claims in perspective. Remember that to achieve weight loss, you have to burn more calories than you consume. As all dieters know, that’s not as easy as it sounds!
That’s why people are so quick to embrace the latest dieting fad, and why you should do your research before jumping on the “miracle pill” bandwagon. For all the hype surrounding yacon syrup, there have been relatively few studies done to determine exactly how effective it is for weight loss.
Yacon syrup is promising, but it’s no substitute for diet and exercise, which remain the best way to shed pounds or maintain a healthy body weight.
What do the Human Studies Say?
The main human study behind all the hype shows yacon syrup to be effective in lowering blood sugar and inducing weight loss among people who are already obese.
However, more research is needed to support these claims.
One study from the National University of Tucuman in Argentina put 55 obese, pre-menopausal women on either yacon syrup or a placebo for 120 days.
The study, performed by Susana Genta and colleagues, was a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment, meaning that neither the researchers nor the subjects knew which group was given the yacon syrup and which had received the placebo.
Both groups ate a healthy, low-calorie diet and performed light exercise.
After 120 days, the researchers found that women who received two doses of yacon syrup a day showed a decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index.
The women in the yacon syrup group lost 33 pounds on average and saw a 3.9-inch reduction in waist circumferences.
Their body mass index went from 34 obese to 28 overweight. In another study conducted in 2013 on anti-obesity medicinal plants, researchers at the Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Center in Tehran found that subjects treated with yacon syrup showed “significant decreases in body weight.”
However, the scientists cautioned that further long-term studies are needed to elucidate the safety of the supplements they studied. Finally, an uncontrolled study of 40 women on the Doctor Oz television show resulted in a total weight loss of 153 pounds.
The women took a teaspoon of yacon syrup before meals for four weeks. Since there was no control group, it’s impossible to know whether the alleged benefits of yacon syrup were real or a result of the placebo effect.
Although it’s impressive to lose 33 pounds in 120 days, the studies haven’t addressed whether yacon syrup helped users keep the weight off consistently.
It’s important to note, too, that the Argentinean study only looked at pre-menopausal women who were already obese, so it’s unknown how much of an effect yacon syrup might have on other populations.
Much more research is needed to understand what kind of role yacon syrup plays in weight loss.
Does Yacon Syrup Have Any Other Benefits ?
Aside from potentially helping people lose weight, yacon syrup offers a host of other benefits. Because it’s high in fructooligosaccharides, it’s good for digestive health. And like other soluble fibers, yacon syrup can help with constipation.
In the 2009 Genta study mentioned above, the women taking yacon syrup saw additional positive effects, including:
- An increase in defecation frequency.
- Increased “satiety sensation” or feeling of fullness.
*A 42 percent decrease in fasting insulin levels. Chronically high levels of fasting insulin indicate metabolic dysfunction and often accompany high fat mass.
- A 67 percent decrease in inulin resistance, placing them at a lower risk for diabetes and heart disease.
- Levels of LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” fell by 29 percent.
It should be noted that any weight loss often leads to a drop in LDL and lower blood sugar, so it’s not certain whether these results can be attributed to yacon syrup. Additionally, the fructooligosaccharides contained in yacon syrup may help with the absorption of calcium.
A study in rodents has shown that yacon syrup possesses antimicrobial properties.
Side Effects, Dosage and How to Use It
Yacon syrup can cause negative side effects in some people. Because of its high fiber content, yacon syrup in large doses may lead to gassiness, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
The women in the human trial didn’t report these effects, likely because they took a small dosage of yacon syrup — about 20 to 25 grams a day, or 4 to 5 teaspoons.
Be sure to use the supplement in moderation, and consider avoiding it altogether if you already have stomach problems.
Yacon syrup can be taken as a supplement before meals, when it may be most effective at reducing appetite. It’s safe to start with a single teaspoon three times a day, and then increase the dosage if you’d like.
Yacon syrup can be taken alone or used as a replacement for sugar in beverages or on food. However, it can’t be incorporated into baking recipes.
That’s because the fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup will break down if they’re exposed to temperatures above 248 degrees Fahrenheit, or 120 degrees Celsius. When shopping for yacon syrup, be sure to pick a supplement without any additives.
Yacon leaves may be potentially toxic to kidneys, so it’s best to avoid tea or other products made from the plant’s leaves. Stick to syrup made from the roots, and you’ll be fine.
Should You Try Yacon Syrup?
Intrigued by the potential benefits of yacon syrup? Why not give it a shot?
Just be warned that yacon syrup on its own probably won’t lead to miraculous weight loss. It’s smart to pair the supplement with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
Note, too, that yacon syrup can be pricey; an eight-ounce bottle of the stuff can cost you 15 dollars or more. If you want the benefits of yacon syrup, but are hesitant to try it out, there are other options.
Yacon syrup isn’t the only substance rich in fructooligosaccharides. Fructooligosaccharides can also be found in whole fruits and vegetables, so it may be a good idea to increase your intake of these foods.
Foods with high levels fructooligosaccharides include onion, chicory, artichokes, asparagus and bananas, among several others. You can also find plenty of good sources of soluble fiber in other foods.
Some studies suggest that fiber helps you feel more satisfied after you eat. Other research — see here — suggests that adding soluble fiber to one’s diet can generate benefits similar to those of yacon syrup.
None of these studies shows the dramatic weight loss results that yacon syrup boasts, but it doesn’t hurt to incorporate a little bit of soluble fiber into your diet.
Oatmeal, beans, apples, oranges, pears, carrots, cucumbers and blueberries are just some examples of food that can serve as a healthy source of soluble fiber.
So far, no one has found a single “miracle supplement” for weight loss, and yacon syrup isn’t likely to be one, either.
However, it does show promise, and it will be interesting to see what else researchers find out about the benefits of yacon syrup.
Have you tried yacon syrup, or are you thinking about trying it? Share your thoughts and experiences with us.