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Yacon

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a tuber, whose syrup contains a large amount of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are carbohydrates that are partially absorbed and prebiotic in nature. Yacon may have benefits for intestinal health and may reduce appetite, but studies on it are limited.

Our evidence-based analysis on yacon features 55 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Yacon

Primary Information, Benefits, Effects, and Important Facts

Yacon is a name used to refer to the plant Smallanthus sonchifolius, which is a tuber vegetable (similar to a potato) and a common food product in South America. It looks like a sweet potato and tastes like a pear. While the tuber itself is used in cooking, a syrup derived from the tuber (called yacon syrup) is used as an alternative sweetener.

This vegetable is also sometimes called the 'diet potato,' which is thought to be related to its fructooligosaccharide (FOS) content. The FOS benefits gut health and has a prebiotic effect, and they may also have a minor appetite suppressing effect in the obese, which reduces food intake. It is thought to be a good dietary supplement, since its production costs are low and yield is high, so it may be one of the most financially feasible sources of dietary FOS while possibly deter sugar consumption, as yacon syrup itself is sweet.

Human studies on yacon are currently limited. One study supports a weight loss effect, which may be due to a reduction in consumed calories, while the other study noted that yacon possesses an anti-motility property (slowing intestinal transit time down) which is known to reduce appetite somewhat. These properties are thought to be related to the FOS content, and are similar to the benefits of FOS from other sources.

Rodent studies suggest proliferation of the 'good' bacteria in the colon in accordance with yacon's prebiotic effects, as well as an increase in mineral uptake from the colon, the latter of which is beneficial for bone health. These properties are not yet proven in humans with, but thought to occur since they have been noted to occur in humans with any other source of FOS.

There is a tea product made from the leaves of yacon, which is said to be anti-diabetic. There is no human evidence for this claim and due to at least one study noting kidney damage associated with the tea (kidney damage tends to reduce glucose levels in the blood), it is thought that this underlies the supposed anti-diabetic effects and consumption of the tea is not recommended.

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Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what effects yacon has on your body, and how strong these effects are.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-c Notable - See study
The one study to assess intestinal motility (speed of food transit from stomach to anus) has noted a near halving of time, suggesting that yacon increases intestinal motility.
grade-c Minor - See study
A mild increase in fecal moisture and consistency has been reported with consumption of yacon syrup, thought to be related to prebiotic effects and a reduction in intestinal motility.
grade-c Minor - See study
A minor reduction in fasting insulin levels has been noted in obese women given supplementation, but this is confounded with weight loss.
grade-c Minor - See study
A minor increase in insulin sensitivity has been noted in a lone study in obese women that is also confounded with weight loss (ie. the weight loss could explain the increase observed)
grade-c Minor - See study
A respectable decrease in LDL has been reported once, although this reduction in LDL is confounded with weight loss that occurred with yacon syrup.
grade-c Minor - See study
A decrease in weight has been noted in obese women given Yacon, although this study could potentially be explained by a reduction in food intake (due to an increase in self-reported satiety and no tracking of calories noted).
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on fasting blood glucose in nondiabetic obese women who consume Yacon relative to placebo, despite weight loss.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on HDL cholesterol has been noted with Yacon syrup, despite weight loss occurring.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on total cholesterol has been noted despite changes in LDL and accompanying weight loss.
grade-c - - See study
Despite a triglcyeride reducing effect of fructooligosaccharides in rats, the limited evidence in humans (with mildly elevated triglcyerides) failed to find any appreciable effect despite weight loss.

Things to Note

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Smallanthus sonchifolius, Yacon Syrup, Aicama, Jicama, Diet potato, yacon potato, yacon strawberry

Goes Well With

  • Soy isoflavones (The fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup may enhance the absorption of isoflavones)

  • Calcium and Magnesium (Their absorption in the colon may be enhanced by the aforementioned FOS)

Caution Notice

Yacon leaves (tea product) are thought to be toxic to the kidneys

  • Limited evidence suggests that water extracts of the leaves (sold as an anti-diabetic tea) are harmful to the kidneys, due to a group of molecules not known to exist in the tuber (where syrup is derived from). At this moment in time, it would be prudent to avoid drinking tea made from yacon leaves.

  • Although it is thought to be very rare, it may be possible to be allergic to yacon tubers.

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Click here to see all 55 references.