Yacon is a species of perennial daisy that’s traditionally grown in from Columbia to Argentina, harvesting its sweet-tasting roots, being native to the Andes Mountains of South America. For hundreds of years, locals have used Yacon for both food and medicinal purposes.
It looks similar to a sweet potato but is much sweeter in taste and is believed to improve symptoms of diabetes, kidney disease, and digestive disorders. Today, it’s mainly being researched for its potential weight-loss effects. This is believed to be based on fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which we will discuss in detail below.
How Does Yacon Support Weight-Loss?
Yacon is sometimes referred to as a diet potato. Based on this vegetable’s FOS content, it’s believed to contribute to weight-loss. The Yacon’s FOS content benefits gut health and offers prebiotic effects. It’s also believed that they may offer users the added benefit of suppressing their appetite so that they reduce their food intake.
Although human studies are limited, there have been positive effects experienced and reported. In one study, weight-loss effects were supported which may have been due to a reduction in calorie intake. Another study reported that the effects may have been due to the fact that Yacon slows down intestinal transit time, reducing appetite. Once again, these effects are believed to be based on the concentration of FOS in Yacon.
In one major supporting study which focused on the effects of obesity and insulin resistance in humans reported the positive benefits of Yacon. Within this double-blind study, 55 obese women with cholesterol issues and a history of constipation were examined. Within this group of 55 women, 40 were given Yacon syrup while the other 15 were given a placebo.
All women, regardless of their group, were advised to eat a low-fat diet and restrict their calorie intake. This study was 120 days in length and yielded some exciting results. After this nearly four-month period, the Yacon experimental group lost an average of 33 pounds. The control group who had been given a placebo actually gained 3.5 pounds.
The same effect was seen regarding waist size, as the Yacon group lost 3.9 inches and the placebo group displayed no changes. Everything from insulin resistance to cholesterol levels, to BMI and stool frequency, improved in the Yacon group. This was, of course, a small study and more research needs to be conducted, however, the results are encouraging.
What Other Benefits Does Yacon Offer?
In rodents, it has been found that Yacon supports the growth of good bacteria in the colon, providing prebiotic effects. In turn, this helps increase mineral uptake in the colon and promotes greater bone health. Although this has not been proven in humans, it’s believed to have the same effect as other sources of FOS have yielded positive effects.
In terms of constipation, it’s been found that Yacon reduced overall transit time through the digestive system from sixty hours to just forty hours, while increasing stool frequency from 1.1 to 1.3 daily. This may be due to the fact that FOS is a soluble, fermentable fiber.
Yacon has been shown to have positive effects on blood sugar, often being used based on its anti-hyperglycemia properties. Yacon contains fructooligosaccharides, meaning that the body will not absorb simple sugars, lowering fasting glucose rates. In turn, this helps to protect your liver. When your body is able to regulate glucose more effectively, you benefit your liver.
For those that suffer from high blood pressure, yacon offers heart-healthy benefits based on its high potassium content. Potassium itself is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels. This helps reduce the overall strain on one’s cardiovascular system. It also increases blood flow, helping to oxygenate organs throughout the body.
A Closer Look at FOS, the Active Ingredient in Yacon
As mentioned, FOS is the key active ingredient in Yacon. Basically, FOS are sugar molecules that are not recognized by the human digestive system. These sugars stimulate the taste buds, however, since FOS are not digested, they only yield a third of the calories found in sugar. For this reason, many use Yacon syrup as an alternative to sugar.
Once FOS reach the large intestine, they feed your digestive system good bacteria. This helps promote a more balanced gut which allows for greater nutrient absorption and supports weight-loss efforts. When your gut is more balanced, you lower your risk of diabetes and obesity, improve immune function, and even brain function.
When studied in rates, it was found that when bacteria digested the FOS, they produced short-chain fatty acids that had powerful anti-obesity effects. There’s also been reported evidence that FOS could help lower the hormone ghrelin which influences hunger, reducing appetite.
Possible Side Effects
If you consume too much Yacon in its natural form, you can potentially eat too much soluble fiber than you’re used to. This will lead to possible gas and bloating. However, when taken in supplement form, doses are more tightly controlled to offer benefits, reducing your risk of any side effects at all.
If you are currently taking any medication or suffer from any chronic conditions, please speak with your doctor before taking Yacon. Also, always follow the recommended dose as stated by the manufacturer.