This fantastic article was written by Dr. B.J. Hardick, an organic food fanatic and green living aficionado who has spent the majority of his life working in natural health care. Follow him on Facebook!
Yacón Syrup: Can this Natural Sweetener Actually Help with Weight Loss?
Leave it to manufacturers to complicate sugar. Remember when you basically had white and brown packets to choose between? Today, manufacturers know we eat too much sugar: an average of 77 – 152 pounds of sugar every year to be exact. (1)
At the same time, they know you know how bad sugar is – basically it makes you fat and wrecks your health, right? – yet you still want a “legal” dose of the sweet stuff. Trot in so-called healthier sugar alternatives, which experts predict will hit a whopping $1.6 billion by 2020. (2)
Emerging among these “healthier” sweeteners is yacón syrup, which Dr. Oz went hysterical about 3 years ago on his show after a study showed overweight women who consumed 3 – 4 teaspoons of yacón syrup lost on average 33 pounds after 4 months. (3)
The study delivers exactly what Dr. Oz claimed: “Daily intake of yacón syrup produced a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index,” researchers concluded about these obese pre-menopausal women with insulin resistance who used Yacón syrup for 120 days. (3)
What is Yacón Syrup?
Yacón (pronounced ya-CONE) syrup comes from the yacón plant, which looks like a yam or sweet potato and grows in the Andes mountains. Most of yacón’s benefits arrive from high amounts of nutrients and prebiotics like inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). (4)
Yacón syrup also contains about 35 percent fructose, a simple sugar that provides much of its sweetness but hasn’t exactly garnered a stellar reputation among experts. (5)
Recent studies tie this sugar with numerous problems including chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, pancreatic cancer, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). (6, 7, 8)
How Yacón Syrup Can Help You Lose Weight
Despite those problems, high amounts prebiotics like FOS and nutrients in yacón syrup seem to override its relatively high fructose load to help you lose weight.
Other studies verify those benefits. Besides the aforementioned Dr. Oz-plugged one, a human study gave 48 overweight adults oligo-fructose (essentially what yacón is made up of) or a placebo (maltodextrin) for 12 weeks. (3)
While weight loss wasn’t very impressive (a little over 2 pounds, versus the placebo group slightly gaining weight), researchers concluded oligo-fructose could potentially help overweight adults lose weight and improve glucose, perhaps by suppressing hunger hormones like ghrelin. (9)
Other Benefits of Yacón Syrup
Besides weight loss, one study looked at insulin-resistant rats and found yacón could reduce blood glucose and hepatic insulin sensitivity. (10) Other studies show yacón can improve colon transit time, potentially reducing constipation. (4)
At the same time, yacón isn’t exactly a “miracle” sweetener: It’s still sugar, with a moderate fructose load, and I recommend you treat it as such and only use it in small amounts.
There’s No Such Thing as a “Perfect Sweetener”
Some experts and health organizations recommend counting sugar calories or slowly reducing them from your diet, yet completely eliminating all sugars becomes the best way to retrain your body’s neurological response.
Especially if you have any degree of insulin resistance or other blood sugar issues (most of us do), a “little sugar” often opens the floodgates for more sugar.
If you insist on sweeteners – sometimes you want your coffee or tea a little sweet – the herb stevia remains my favorite. Small amounts yacón won’t do any harm and might provide some benefits, but don’t think this becomes an unlimited sweetener. Use yacón syrup judiciously just like you would table sugar.
If you’ve ever tried yacón syrup, did you notice weight loss or any other benefits? What’s your go-to sweetener these days if you use one? Share your thoughts below or on my Facebook page.
- 1 DiNicolantonio JJ, Lucan SC. The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease. Open Heart. 2014;1(1):e000167. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2014-000167. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336865/ Published January 2014. Published online November 3, 2014. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 2 Winter, Joysa. Agave nectar sales gaining 8% a year. New Hope Network.
- Published October 31, 2012. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 3 Genta S1, Cabrera W, Habib N, Pons J, Carillo IM, Grau A, Sánchez S. Yacon syrup: beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans. Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;28(2):182-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.01.013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19254816
- Published April 28, 2009. ePublished February 28, 2009. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 4 Geyer M1, Manrique I, Degen L, Beglinger C. Effect of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) on colonic transit time in healthy volunteers. Digestion. 2008; 78(1):30-3. doi: 10.1159/000155214. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18781073
- Published 2008. ePublished September 10, 2008. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 5 Lachman J, Fernández E, Orsák M., Yacon [Smallanthus sonchifolia (Poepp. et Endl.) H. Robinson] chemical composition and use – A review. Plant Soil and Environment 49(6). ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242724100_Yacon_Smallanthus_sonchifolia_Poepp_et_Endl_H_Robinson_chemical_composition_and_use_-_A_review Published June 2003. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 6 Castro MC1, Massa ML1, Arbeláez LG2, Schinella G3, Gagliardino JJ1, Francini F4.Fructose-induced inflammation, insulin resistance and oxidative stress: A liver pathological triad effectively disrupted by lipoic acid. Life Sci. 2015 Sep 15;137:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2015.07.010.
- Published September 15, 2015. Epub Jul 17, 2015.Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 7 Liu H1, Huang D, McArthur DL, Boros LG, Nissen N, Heaney AP. Fructose induces transketolase flux to promote pancreatic cancer growth. Cancer Res. 2010 Aug 1;70(15):6368-76. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-4615. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20647326 Published August 1, 2010. Epub Jul 20, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 8 Basaranoglu M1, Basaranoglu G, Sabuncu T, Sentürk H. Fructose as a key player in the development of fatty liver disease. World J Gastroenterol.19(8):1166-72. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i8.1166. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23482247 Published Feb 28, 2013. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 9 Parnell, Jill A and Reimer, Raylene A. Weight loss during oligofructose supplementation is associated with decreased ghrelin and increased peptide YY in overweight and obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun; 89(6): 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27465.
- Published online 2009 Apr 22. Accessed June 6, 2017.
- 10 Satoh H, Nguyen M T Audrey, […], and Watanabe T. Yacon diet (Smallanthus sonchifolius, Asteraceae) improves hepatic insulin resistance via reducing Trb3 expression in Zucker fa/fa rats. Nutr Diabetes. 2013 May; 3(5): e70.doi: 10.1038/nutd.2013.11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671746/ Published online 2013 May 27. Accessed June 6, 2017.
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Raised in a holistic family, Dr. B.J. Hardick is an organic food fanatic, green living aficionado, and has spent the majority of his life working in natural health care. In 2009, he wrote his first book, Maximized Living Nutrition Plans, which has now been used professionally in over 500 health clinics. Dr. Hardick regularly blogs healthy recipes and holistic health articles on his own website, DrHardick.com and speaks to numerous professional and public audiences every year. In his spare time, he invests his keen interest in sustainable living into urban development in his hometown of London, Ontario.
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