What Is Yacon Syrup?

A glass dish filled with yacon syrup

What is yacon syrup, and how can it help you?

Diet and exercise, while vital aspects of a healthy lifestyle, can be difficult. But according to a Dr. Oz study, people trying to meet weight loss goals may be able to get a little dietary help.

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According to Dr. Oz, yacon syrup can help women lose up to 5 lbs. in four weeks. The syrup derives from South America, high in the Andes Mountains, and is considered to be a staple in the Peruvian diet. It is commonly used as a natural sweetener, effectively serving as a substitute for sugar in some ways. Yacon syrup is described as “candy in a jar” and is “similar to molasses,” says Dr. Oz’s study participants, averaging a total of seven calories per teaspoon with a high fiber content.

According to the International Potato Center, yacon syrup contains approximately 30 percent of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) — a type of fructo-polysaccharide used as an alternative sweetener — and also has low levels of simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose.

The human body does not have an enzyme to break down FOS, which causes it to pass through the digestive tract unmetabolized, providing few calories, Dr. Oz said. FOS acts as a soluble fiber that increases stool bulk to help prevent and even control constipation. It can help sufferers of metabolic syndrome combat high cholesterol and diabetes. As a probiotic, the syrup acts as food for “friendly” bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the small intestines and the colon.

To examine the effects of yacon syrup on a group of overweight women, Dr. Oz originally asked 60 female viewers of The Dr. Oz Show to consume one tablespoon of yacon syrup with or before each meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — for four weeks while not making any other changes in their diets or exercise habits. Out of the 60 female participants, only 40 completed the study trial.

Twenty-nine out of the 40 participants reported weight loss of some sort while 14 women lost 5 lbs. or more. The average weight loss among the female viewers was about 3 lbs. In addition, there was a 1.9-inch reduction in waist size, according to Dr. Oz. Overall, more than half of the participants would recommend yacon syrup as a weight loss tool.

Yacon syrup not only effectively boosted metabolism and aided weight loss, but also stabilized blood sugar levels.

“Now this is why I’m passionate about it, it’s not just about losing weight, yes you’ll get that I know that’s why people will try this, but if it can get your blood sugar down that’s a goldmine for us when it comes to your health,” said Dr. Oz.

Yacon Syrup: The Downside

While Dr. Oz’s experiment looks very promising with good results, the study does have several limitations. It is not known whether the weight the participants lost is due to the yacon syrup or the placebo effect. It may be possible that the participants expected to lose weight and therefore felt more obliged to strictly follow their diets. A placebo-controlled study should be done to further test the effects of yacon syrup on a larger cohort.

Dr. Garth Davis, an obesity specialist, was asked to weigh in on the results of Dr. Oz’s experiment and other yacon syrup human trials. He believes that, while the studies show impressive results, they fail to go into extensive detail about what diet the participants utilized. Dr. Davis fears that people will treat the syrup as a “magic pill” to help them lose weight quickly rather than see it as an additional supplement to a healthy lifestyle. Adding more fruits and vegetables to one’s diet would be a much more health-conscious route than adding yacon syrup, according to Davis.