The dieting community is always looking for new foods that serve as a weight loss aid, and many different ingredients have been promoted in recent years as the easy solution to dieting, such as chillies, green tea or acai berry. Most recently, the product Yacon syrup has been brought to the attention of the public, primarily because of its exposure from the Dr. Oz show in November 2013.
This article will provide more details about what this product is, and how it may be beneficial to those who choose to consume it.
What is Yacon Syrup?
Yacon syrup is a thick, sweet syrup that is derived from Yacon, a root vegetable that originates from Peru. Both the vegetable itself and the syrup have played an important role in the Peruvian diet for centuries, because of its low calorific value and unusual but pleasant taste.
The syrup is incredibly low in calories, especially compared to sugar and other refined syrups. Per teaspoon it contains only 7 calories, which compares to 16 calories per teaspoon of sugar. The syrup contains a significant amount of soluble fibre, which makes it significantly different from sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. The taste has been compared with raisins, figs and other sweet dried fruits, and its texture is thick and similar to molasses.
Opinions seem to be mixed about the niceness of the flavour, and undoubtedly those who find the product to be tasty are more likely to find weight loss success with it. This is because the syrup is therefore easier to work into the daily diet, as it is not seen as an unpleasant ingredient.
How it is Thought to Aid Weight loss?
It is possible that Yacon syrup could aid weight loss in several ways. By using it as a substitute for sugar, the number of calories consumed by the user per day will be decreased. Over time, this could lead to natural weight loss, especially if the user typically consumes a large amount of sweetened drinks such as tea and coffee throughout the day.
The significant amount of fibre in Yacon syrup could also aid weight loss. Fibre improves digestion, and adds bulk to foods. This extra bulk helps to make people feel fuller for longer, which will therefore help them to eat less throughout the day. Fibre is found naturally in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and so Yacon syrup is only one of many possible products that can increase fibre intake. By incorporating extra fibre into the daily diet through the addition of natural ingredients, it is possible to reduce hunger cravings between meals, as well as creating an increased feeling of satiety from each meal.
The presence of a high level of Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a type of fructose based complex sugar, is one of the reasons that Yacon syrup is receiving increasing levels of attention from the medical and scientific communities, as well as the dieting community. Yacon syrup has one of the highest concentrations of this type of complex sugar, although Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) can also be found naturally occurring in asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, soybeans and other vegetables.
Complex sugars are treated differently by the body than simple sugars. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) has only a minimal effect upon the level of glucose in the blood, and so there is no peak in blood sugar levels followed by a sugar crash after consumption. It is this drop in blood sugar levels that creates hunger cravings between meals, and so without this, people are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods or convenience foods between meals. By suppressing the appetite in this way, it is easier for people to stick to controlled diet plans, and to therefore have more dieting success in the long run.
Fructooligosaccharides act as prebiotics by passing undigested into the colon where they increase bowel mass and promote growth of probiotic bacteria that are thought to be beneficial. By passing through the stomach without being digested, fewer calories are absorbed by the body, making Yacon syrup a low calorie choice. According to Dr. Oz,
FOS has also been shown to modulate the production of certain gastrointestinal peptides that participate in gastric emptying rates and help regulate insulin levels and food intake. Yacon, therefore, may also help control appetite and food cravings, helping people eat less.
Genta et al. found that following prolonged consumption of Yacon syrup, participants had improved levels of insulin in their blood during periods of fast. This may indicate that Yacon syrup aids the breakdown of sugars in the blood indirectly, because of this increased level of insulin.
The link between Yacon syrup and insulin needs to be studied more to see how Yacon syrup affects the body, and to see conclusively if it stimulates the metabolism to aid weight loss.
The fibre in Yacon syrup works to regulate the digestive system, and has been found to increase bowel movements, making it ideal for people who often suffer from slow digestion and constipation.
Use of Yacon syrup has also been found to positively affect the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. This reduction can be beneficial for general health, and is a key indicator of health that doctors often monitor.
Some studies have identified that the presence of FOS in the stomach can increase absorption of calcium due to the slight increase of acid levels in the stomach. These studies were conducted upon both humans and animals.
Yacon Syrup Side effects
It is always important to consider the risk of side effects when looking at possible weight loss aids. As a natural food ingredient, it is likely that Yacon syrup is much safer as a product than diet pills and other processed supplements. Because of the soluble fibre present in Yacon syrup, an increase in flatulence is likely, as well as an increase in bowel movements.
While this increase is beneficial for people who frequently suffer from constipation, this could also be problematic and uncomfortable for people who suffer from diarrhoea or loose stools.
Taking large amounts of Yacon syrup, especially alongside other high fibre foods, will increase the user’s chances of experiencing diarrhoea. Stomach cramps, bloating and “intestinal noises” are some of the other reported side effects. Beyond gastro-intestinal side effects, there have been no other serious side effects reported as a result of consuming Yacon syrup.
Findings from Clinical Studies
Yacon syrup has been the focus of several studies in recent years. These have looked at the various ways in which the product affects the body. The most relevant study to Yacon syrup’s effect upon weight loss is entitled “Yacon syrup: Beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans” (see the full article here) by Genta et al. and shows that the syrup definitely does have some potential as a weight loss aid. Participants were encouraged to;
slightly reduce their caloric intake and to walk for 45 minutes twice a week.
Those who did not consume Yacon syrup over the four month study did not experience any significant changes in weight, BMI or waist measurement. Those who did consume Yacon syrup as directed however did show significant changes to all three of these categories, as well as decreased levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, and increased levels of insulin whilst fasting.
On average, the women who were taking Yacon syrup lost an average of 33 pounds and 4 inches of waist circumference. A waist measurement reduction of 4 inches is the equivalent to two dress sizes, which is undoubtedly a huge achievement. The length of the trial, 4 months, suggests that the product is a viable long-term addition to a person’s daily diet.
This study was relatively small, with only 55 obese Argentinian women being studied. To confirm the findings of this study, and to learn more about how Yacon syrup works on the body, more studies will have to be conducted in the future.
The study also found that insulin levels improved in the participants taking Yacon syrup, suggesting that their tissue sensitivity to insulin increased. This could be beneficial to diabetics and those suffering from pre-diabetes. Finally the study also noted that the participants’ perception of satiety and fullness increased when using Yacon syrup. This is a confirmation that the product aids people in feeling fuller for longer, and therefore less likely to continue snacking between meals.
Dr. Oz covered the topic of Yacon syrup as a weight loss aid on his TV show in November 2013. As a part of this, the product was put to the test by 60 female participants in an experiment. Whilst this was not a clinical trial, the results from taking Yacon syrup before meals for one month seem to confirm the idea that Yacon syrup does benefit obese people and aid their weight loss slowly but significantly over time.
The experiment on the show found that, of the 40 women who completed the 4-week challenge, 73% lost weight, with an average weight loss of 2.9 pounds and an average reduction in waist measurement of 1.9 inches. The large percentage of women who did not finish the 4-week challenge does devalue the results somewhat, as they were excluded from the final results. The taste of Yacon syrup is not liked universally, as it is quite an unusual flavour. This may be one of the reasons why so many people failed to complete the challenge.
How to Use the Syrup
The syrup can be used as a sugar substitute, and as such can be added to tea and coffee, hot chocolate, yoghurts and breakfast cereals such as porridge to alter the sweetness of each food item. Cooking the syrup is possible as a part of various recipes, but this will alter the structure of the syrup, and so may reduce the potential weight loss benefits. It can also be taken on its own before meals by the teaspoon, allowing it to be treated as a supplement if required.
Generally, the amount of Yacon syrup consumed per day should be kept relatively small, to reduce the chances of diarrhoea and other uncomfortable side effects. If these side effects are experienced, the dose of Yacon syrup taken per day should be decreased, or use of the product temporarily stopped.
Where to Purchase Yacon Syrup?
There are many different online health food retailers that stock Yacon syrup and it may also be available in local health stores, depending upon their size. Following the airing of Dr. Oz’s segment on Yacon syrup, many of these online retailers quickly sold out, although perhaps now larger stocks are being kept in response to the increased demand for the product.
Prices vary dramatically, based upon the size of the bottle or jar sold, the origin of the product, as well as the brand name. Some companies are marketing it as an organic, pesticide free product that is suitable for vegans and diabetics, as well as it being kosher-friendly. Inevitably, the more titles that are attached to any one product, the more expensive it is likely to be.
Currently, the product is still being marketed primarily as a sugar substitute, but as awareness of its potential weight loss characteristics increases, Yacon syrup may be marketed more as a diet supplement or weight loss aid. This is also likely to increase the price tag, as diet supplement companies can command large price tags for products that are marketed as magic pills or easy solutions to weight loss.
As an indicator of price, Yacon syrup is currently selling for $11.99 (approx. £7.40) for a 250g jar, plus postage. Whilst some suppliers are offering a 500ml bottle for £16.96, reduced from £19.95. Finally, Loving earth, an Australian health food company, is selling 250g jars of Certified Organic Yacon Syrup from Oxapampa, Peru for $29.90 (in Australian dollars) which equates to roughly £17 depending upon the current conversion rate. This website also has a bulk buy option for 25kg of Yacon syrup, which is ideal for restaurants and others who may use the product in large quantities.
Our Conclusion – Yacon Syrup
Overall, it appears that Yacon syrup holds a lot of potential as a natural food that can be incorporated into the daily diet as a weight loss aid.
Whilst more studies and research needs to be conducted, especially into how Yacon syrup aids weight loss, the initial results from Genta et al. is promising.
Yacon syrup is most certainly not a miracle weight loss solution, and is not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. Yacon syrup would, like all diet aids, be most beneficial in combination with a balanced diet and exercise program, and could provide dieters with an extra push to help them lose weight in a controlled manner.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.