Celebrity promotions have pushed yacon syrup front and center as another weight loss aid. The syrup, which claims to benefit the body with enhanced blood sugar levels, additional fiber intake, constipation relief and weight loss, has people buzzing. But is yacon syrup as good for you as they say?
In the event you’d yet to hear of the latest in body management, yacon syrup is the liquid or syrup derived from yacon roots. The yacon plant is native to the Andean region and is cultivated for its roots, which are eaten as fresh or cooked fruit. Contrast to many other edible roots, the yacon stores its carbohydrates in the form of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are sugars naturally found in plants. The difference with the yacon plant is the incredibly high concentrations of FOS.
The physical properties of yacon syrup are similar to sugar cane and honey. Its claim to fame is the naturally high fructooligosaccharides content, which could make it a nutraceutical product — nutraceutical is a portmanteau word of nutrition and pharmaceutical — while a nutraceutical product is a food product that provides both food and medicinal health benefits.
It’s a fact that obesity and overweight are major risk factors for people developing chronic diseases. A widely accepted belief is that alterations of the metabolic syndrome, such as insulin resistance, are a direct consequence of overweight and obesity. A variety of research methods conducted by reputable groups provided the following conclusions on the health benefits of FOS found in yacon syrup:
Yacon is believed to reduce blood glucose levels in diabetics. Several studies have been conducted on whether yacon does indeed, possess the properties required to decrease blood glucose levels. To date, most studies conclude that any positive results from consuming yacon “are likely due to its beneficial effects on hepatic insulin sensitivity in the insulin resistant state.” More testing is required.
Obesity and weight loss
A study conducted on pre-menopausal insulin resistant women aged 31 to 49 over a six-month period resulted in 35 of the 55 participants showing a significant decrease in body weight. Their body mass index and waist circumference decreased with daily consumption of yacon root, however, all 55 women maintained a healthy diet (50 percent carbs, 30 percent fat, 15 percent protein and 10 percent fiber intake per day) and participated in a moderately intense 45-minute walk twice a week. The role of yacon and weight management is still being studied.
FOS in yacon, which are found in concentrations of 40 to 50 percent, have the ability to resist the hydrolysis of enzymes that take place in the upper gastrointestinal tract in humans. When consumed, FOS completely ferments in the colon by a group of beneficial intestinal microflora that have shown to improve gastrointestinal function.
The research results of a 20-week study published in Science Direct showed that rats who were orally fed varying levels of dried yacon root displayed significantly lower invasive and noninvasive tumor multiplicity and a significant reduction in tumor cell proliferation. These results have led researchers to conclude that yacon root may have colon cancer prevention properties.
The chemical composition of yacon syrup is 2.16 percent protein, 0.14 percent lipids and 67.04 percent carbohydrates — 25.65 percent of which are free simple sugars and 41.39 percent, FOS. This high concentration of FOS makes yacon syrup a soluble fiber and a source of healthy fiber intake. Yacon syrup also contains the micronutrient potassium at significant levels of 936 mg/100g. An average banana, eaten in its entirely, has 422 mg of potassium or about ½ a gram.
People considering yacon syrup should take caution that in high doses, the syrup can cause gastrointestinal issues. Research shows that consuming 0.14 grams or less of yacon syrup per kilogram of body weight each day had no undesirable gastrointestinal effects.