Health: Wellness Center
  • Wellness Center
  • The Yacón Syrup Story

    The Yacón Syrup Story: Main Image
  • The Yacón Syrup Story

    The Yacón Syrup Story: Main Image
    Yacón syrup is rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that fuels the formation of healthy bacteria of the human gastrointestinal tract
    Yacón syrup is a sweetener derived from the root of the yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius) plant that, according to the latest buzz, can help shed excess pounds. Though it’s a bit premature to proclaim yacón syrup a weight loss miracle, it does boast nutrients known to provide health benefits.

    Promise in prebiotics

    The yacón plant grows in the Andes mountains of South America and has a long history of medicinal use—for diabetes and digestive disorders—among indigenous people living in these areas. Yacón syrup is rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that fuels the growth of healthy bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract. Yacón is a good source of polyphenols as well, which are nutrients found in a variety of plant foods and beverages, such as red wine, green tea, and berries. Polyphenol-rich diets are associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

    The major type of prebiotics found in yacón are FOS (fructooligosaccharides) also found in many common plant foods, such as leeks, onions, and asparagus. FOS are not readily digested and so reach the colon largely intact. Once in the colon, FOS are fermented to short-chain fatty acids, which support healthful gut bacteria growth and inhibit the growth of harmful, disease-causing bacteria.

    FOS provide just 2 calories per gram, instead of the usual 4 for most carbohydrates. This means that as a sweetener, yacón syrup provides about 20 calories per tablespoon, compared with 48 calories for a tablespoon of sugar, and 64 for honey. FOS are soluble fiber, and can increase stool bulk and potentially minimize constipation.

    Will the syrup slim you?

    Studies in mice and rats support the notion that FOS from yacón root may improve insulin sensitivity and levels of cholesterol and other blood fats in animals with diabetes, but much more research is needed to better understand if these results are applicable to humans. 

    Of the three human studies available at the time of writing, two examined safety and short-term effects on how quickly food moves through the gastrointestinal tract (colon transit time). One small, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 55 obese women does suggest that FOS from yacón syrup may improve the odds of losing pounds. According to this study, 140 mg of FOS from yacón syrup per kg of body weight per day (that’s 60 mg per pound) improved fasting insulin levels, body weight, and waist circumference. On average, the yacón syrup group lost 33 pounds in three months, while the control group gained about three and a half pounds in the same period.

    For reference, 60 mg of FOS per pound translates to around 11 grams of FOS for a person weighing 180 pounds, or a little more than one-third of an ounce of FOS from yacón syrup per day.

    Should you say yes to yacón?

    The early word on yacón syrup is certainly interesting, though much more research is needed to better understand how this sweetener works and who might best benefit from using it. Keep the following in mind before deciding if yacón syrup is right for you:

    • Work with your doctor. If you take medications to manage diabetes or insulin resistance, talk to your doctor before using yacón products. If you add in FOS without accounting for their insulin-sensitizing effects, you may end up with low blood sugar levels.
    • Go slow. FOS may cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal effects, such as gas, in many people. Use sparingly and work up to higher amounts to minimize these issues.
    • Seek food. Yacón isn’t the only way to get FOS. Other FOS-rich foods include bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, barley, oats, asparagus, leeks, and dandelion greens. Aim for a varied diet with plenty of plant foods and you’ll naturally increase your FOS intake.
    • Seek balance. While yacón syrup may help some people lose a few pounds, even the best diet aid is useless unless combined with balanced nutrition and regular physical activity.

    (Dig Liver Dis 2002;34:S111–20; Clin Nutr 2009;28:182–7; J Diabetes Metab Disord 2013;12:28)

    Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

  • Used with permission. ©2014 Walmart. All Rights Reserved. 

     
    Important Walmart Disclaimer: All content provided is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, or advice of a medical professional. Consult your medical professional for guidance before changing or undertaking any diet, exercise or health program, or before using any prescription or over-the-counter drug. Neither the author nor Walmart.com assumes any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter. Walmart does not sponsor, recommend or endorse any third party, product, service or information provided on this site. If you have dietary restrictions and/or allergies, always read the ingredient list carefully for all products prior to consumption. If the ingredient list is not available on the product, check with the product manufacturer, or do not consume the product.

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