Yacon Syrup: What Health Benefits Does This Syrup Yield?

Welcome back to my series focusing on new wonder supplement, yacon syrup. In these articles, I am supplementing my extended review of yacon syrup with a series of smaller articles, focusing on one specific area of research. If you’re reading this article, chances are you are looking for more information on whether yacon syrups has any additional benefits besides weight loss.

I’ve scoured the research archives to report back on the health benefits of yacon syrup, and I don’t mind admitting that there are more than I expected! I was amazed when I researched coconut oil that there were so many benefits I’d never expected, and the same can be said of yacon syrup.

What was the yacon originally used for?

Originating in South America, the vegetable was – and still is – used in herbal medicine systems across the continent. According to the ‘Awesome Rawsome website, in Bolivia the vegetable was eaten raw as a diuretic for kidney and bladder problems, with the leaves used to treat cystitis, hepatosis, and nephrosis. In Peru, the leaves were ground and applied to treat myalgia and rheumatism, and in Brazil the leaves were brewed as a tea and drunk to help diabetes.

So what are the key benefits of yacon syrup?

Obviously, we’re revved up by the purported weight loss properties of yacon. But before I get to that (you can read my full research article focused on yacon syrup and weight loss here), let’s look at some of the other benefits which have been used in South American medicine for centuries:

  • Better gut health – yacon syrup increases the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut[1] which are essential for digestive health[2]
  • Reduction in colon transit time for food to pass through the body, with one study[3] documenting a reduction from almost 60 to just under 39 hours to pass through, a reduction of 33%.
  • Improved immunity – some studies have shown that supplementing with yacon can help prevent the risk of autoimmune and metabolic disorders, such as this 2010 rodent study[4] that demonstrated the antimicrobial properties of the yacon leaves against MRSA, and this 2012 rodent study[5] that found that “the consumption of yacon does not exert negative effects on the immune system, helps to preserve an anti-inflammatory state in phagocytic cells, and improves mucosal immunity, possibly preventing the risks associated with autoimmune and metabolic diseases.”
  • Positive effect on cholesterol – various studies have shown an increase of ‘good’ cholesterol such as this 2012 rodent study that concluded that “a positive effect on triglycerides levels and HDL-cholesterol was observed” when diabetic rats were fed the yacon extract
  • Helps with constipation – studies have shown that as well as a significant decrease in time spent passing food through the body, the stool frequency and softness have both improved, making it a useful supplement for those suffering from constipation
  • Regulates blood sugar levels – particularly in menopausal women with insulin resistance, and a 2013 rodent study[6] saw fasting glucose levels reduced by around 9%

Are there any other health benefits?

Essentially, some studies show that yacon syrup helps with weight loss in the following ways:

  • Low calorie sugar alternative at just 20kcal per teaspoon
  • Helps clear the digestive tract, see above colon transit time point
  • Increases defecation, both frequency and ease
  • Reduces insulin resistance, in that the usual sugar spike is not present even though yacon syrup behaves like a sugar when you consume it, i.e. raises blood sugar levels
  • Curbs our appetite by decreasing the body’s natural production of ghrelin, our ‘hunger hormone’

You can find out more about the science behind these claims in my in-depth article focusing on the clinical research conducted to date on the yacon fruit.

Is there anything bad about yacon?

As I mentioned above, in Brazil the leaves are steeped as a tea. However, in the western world we’ve undergone more tests and potentially linked the yacon leaf tea to kidney problems. In this 2011 report by Oliveira et al[7], they conclude that “The renal damage was associated with increased blood glucose levels after prolonged oral administration of the {extract}…Based on our results, we do not recommend the oral use of yacon leaves to treat diabetes.”

So there you have it!

A natural food rich in benefits. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, there are many benefits to this low-sugar carb that make it a useful and healthy addition to your everyday diet. Experienced any of the benefits above or even some other benefits I haven’t documented? Please share them below and join in the discussion!

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12926870
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23037903
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18781073
[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20119720
[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23176799
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23712282
[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20951787

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