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Metabolism-boosting yacon syrup for weight loss soars in popularity with Dr. Oz

Dr. Oz has caused yacon syrup to soar in popularity.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

In the musical "Cinderella," a song's lyrics include this catchy phrase: "Impossible things are happening every day." Dr. Mehmet Oz might want to make that his theme song, because his popular talk show regularly includes weight loss supplements that he proclaims to be "miracles." Now yacon syrup, after being featured twice on his show, has become the latest runaway reduction phenomenon, reported People magazine on Wednesday.

A South American root, yacon syrup survived a test by Dr. Oz's viewers. He asked 60 women to try the product for four weeks. About 75 percent of them lost an average of nearly three pounds without making other changes to their diet and exercise.

How much and when: In Dr. Oz's trial of yacon syrup,the women consumed one teaspoon prior to or during each meal. It has a taste and texture similar to molasses, and thus can be used as a substitute sweetener.

So where can you find this "miracle" product? Dr. Oz does not endorse any brand, but does note on his site that you should look for "pure" yacon syrup. How to tell what's pure?

Check the label. One teaspoon should equal less than 15 calories. Examples include Quality Encapsulations and Royal Dark Yacon Syrup.

But while Dr. Oz describes yacon syrup as a "metabolism game-changer," not everyone is convinced. "The limitation is that there have not been many studies," cautioned Dr. Neal Barnard.

Author of "21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health," Dr. Barnard did add that he feels it can be used safely. "It appears to be safe, it is widely available, and may help with weight loss as well as cholesterol control," he said in response to Dr. Oz's request for comments.

Also providing his views: Dr. Mike Roizen. To those who feel that losing three pounds in four weeks isn't impressive, Dr. Roizen disagrees.

"A 2.9 pound and 1.9 inch waist reduction is exactly what one wants," he said. "Improvement in other markers of the metabolic syndrome that would decrease with weight loss, like LDl decreases and HDL increases."

So how exactly does yacon syrup work? It contains prebiotics including inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Because FOS reaches the colon without being digested, it's low in calories while also serving as a soluble fiber to prevent constipation.

Yacon syrup also helps you maintain your "good" bacteria including Bifidus and Lactobacillus. These tongue twisters are associated with weight because they provide anti-inflammatory benefits.

In addition, those good bowel bacteria help control insulin levels. As a result, yacon syrup controls your hunger and curbs cravings.

A previous study reported that overweight women who used yacon syrup for four months lost an average of 33 pounds. They also lost four inches from their waists, reported ABC News on Wednesday.

However, it's not a "magic pill," cautioned Dr. Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist and registered dietician in New York. But "if this syrup helps people consume less, that’s great."

Moreover, added Dr. Ayoob, there are less expensive options. "Beans have a lot of FOS, which have the same effect such as lowering your bad cholesterol."

New York nutritionist Lisa Drayer cautioned that side effects of yacon syrup can include stomach cramps and bloating. And she's dubious about the benefits.

"What we don’t know from the studies is whether is yacon directly causes weight loss or if it’s the placebo effect," said Drayer. “The reality is we have to eat healthier, we have to eat less and we have to move more. That’s what it comes down to.”

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