Well, it’s official. Instead of the tabloids telling me that Yacon syrup featured on the Dr. Oz show will help me lose weight, now I have the Dr. Oz show doing it directly. (Yacon on Dr. Oz)
Dr. Oz ran a trial of Yacon and found that most of their study group lost weight over four weeks. They didn’t say why one-third of the group dropped out before finishing, but it might have to do with the diarrhea side-effects from Yacon. Of the forty women who successfully took Yacon syrup before every meal for a month, 29 lost weight. Of those, 14 lost more than five pounds, which means they weren’t losing fat according to the standard one pound a week fat loss expectation.
We also have the Dr. Oz show crowing about a study from Argentina where women lost weight when they combined Yacon syrup with diet and exercise. These are not the same kinds of studies, but the Argentinean women did lose a large amount of weight.
Yacon supposedly works because of the prebiotics that help good probiotics (good gut bugs) grow. But that isn’t the only benefit: “Yacon consumption also appears to increase absorption of dietary minerals, and may make calcium more bioavailable. Studies have shown this could help increase bone density and delay the progression of osteoporosis. Studies also show that neutraceuticals, especially fructans such as yacon, may increase the efficiency of the immune system, lower infection risk and reduce digestive allergies.” Wow! Sign me up! (In further examination, all of those studies were done on mice and rats. So Yacon is very good pet food, but that doesn’t make it good people food).
The Dr. Oz page also gives a link to experts’ opinions. But when I clicked the link I got a very scary warning that the link wasn’t safe. For the sake of science I clicked on and got through to the expert opinions on Yacon, which could be summarized as: “we like that preliminary study, but we’re not that excited about Yacon.” So it is clear why the experts were not quoted on the front page for the “Yacon Project.”
For those of you who don’t want to go through the studies with me (really? but they’re so fun!) let me paraphrase the results. Yacon works as an appetite suppressant and causes mild diarrhea. That’s the primary effect. If you are a constipated person, it will probably help you move your bowels. But it won’t help you permanently help you lose weight unless…you take it for the rest of your life.
On the downside, increased demand for Yacon is likely to lead to mixing of plant parts. Yacon leaf appears to possibly be toxic, and Yacon root varies widely in its activity. So be sure you trust your supplier. (How long will it be before we have a Dr. Oz approved supplier? Isn’t that the next logical step?)
So let’s look at these amazing studies on Yacon:
We have a rat study showing the addition of Yacon flour to their diet decreased the availability of iron significantly. Nothing on weight loss.(study here) We have another rat study showing Yacon root increases testerone levels and sperm genesis. (study here) In diabetic rats, the addition of Yacon root led to a significant drop in food and water consumption. Every parameter (sugars, cholesterol, etc.) improved. (study here) There are really a lot of rat and mouse studies that show that Yacon is nigh miraculous for your pets, whether we’re trying to kill them with salmonella or inject them with cancer. The only downside for rats is that Yacon leaves are bad for the kidneys (study here). Oh, and a study feeding rats high doses of Yacon noted: “Cecal hypertrophy was observed in rats fed only the high dose” (study here) The cecum is the first part of the large intestine, where the appendix is typically located. (wikipedia here)
Switching to humans, we have a case of allergic anaphylaxis from Yacon root. (report here)
The much reported Genta study on the Argentine women found good results in terms of weight loss: “consumption of yacon syrup increased defecation frequency and satiety sensation” (study here) A not-reported cross-over study of healthy volunteers found: “Yacon markedly accelerates colonic transit in healthy individuals” (study here)
A study of Yacon as a food crop found: “Significant variations in tuber shape, weight, content of oligofructans, as well as in leaf isozymes, phenolics, and relative DNA contents were found” (study here)
We have a new human study out in January 2014 on freeze-dried Yacon for seventy-two elderly patients. It helped lower blood sugars, didn’t help with weight loss, didn’t lower cholesterol, and didn’t have any side effects. These patients took over seven grams of Yacon over nine weeks. (study here)