Yacon root comes from the Smallanthus sonchifolius plant native to South America. Used as a food and natural sweetener, yacon root’s potential health benefits have led to its use as a dietary supplement as well. Yacon root has beneficial effects for overweight people and for those with high cholesterol or those struggling with digestive conditions. Its adverse side effects are practically nonexistent.
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Potential Weight Loss
The syrup contained in yacon root is associated with weight loss in some people. According to a study published in April 2009 in “Clinical Nutrition,” obese women who consumed 0.14 to 0.29 gram of yacon syrup per kilogram of body weight per day over the course of 120 days saw a reduction in weight, body mass index and waist circumference. This is partially attributable to yacon root’s influence on increasing defecation and satiety after eating.
Reduced Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Yacon root contains a type of sugar called fructooligosaccharide, which can lower levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol. A study published in October 2011 in “Chemico-Biological Interactions" found that diabetic rats supplemented with yacon root daily showed lower levels of fasting plasma triacylglycerol, a triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol. The study published in April 2009 in “Clinical Nutrition” confirmed that LDL cholesterol levels were reduced in people after daily yacon consumption as well. Lower levels of lipids like triglycerides and LDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Improved Digestive Health
Yacon root contains compounds that function as prebiotics in the body, improving digestive health and treating certain types of colitis. These prebiotic properties influence the development of microflora in the digestive tract, leading to improved gastrointestinal fermentation. The increased bowel movements regularity associated with yacon root could be attributed to this prebiotic effect.
Possible Side Effects
A November 2005 study in “Food and Chemical Toxicology,” found that rats administered with two different amounts of yacon root showed no toxicity or any adverse side effects after four months of regular consumption. Supporting this find, the human study published in April 2009 in “Clinical Nutrition” reported that participants showed no ill effects after 120 days of supplementation. But, there has been at least one case of anaphylactic shock as a reaction to yacon root ingestion in an individual with a strong allergy to the plant.