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Nutritionist explores yacon syrup weight loss claims: Pros and cons

Does yacon syrup work for weight loss?
Does yacon syrup work for weight loss?
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Every time Dr. Mehmet Oz talks about yacon syrup, searches for this supposedly Next Big Thing in the weight loss world soar. But what is it and how does it work? Nutritionist Keri Gans answered those questions in a recent article for U.S. News & World Report.

The pros: It's natural and high in fiber. Yacon syrup is like molasses in consistency and contains prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Low in calories (about 20 per tablespoon), yacon syrup tastes like a combination of raisins and figs. It's available in health food stores and online, such as Yacon Syrup Quality Encapsulations Metabolism Booster and Royal Dark 100% Pure Yacon Syrup.

How did it become famous? Keri, author of "The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You," says:

Its original rise to fame in the U.S. was mostly due to the results of a 28-day project that Dr. Oz conducted around a year ago with 60 of his female viewers who were interested in losing weight. These women were asked to consume one teaspoon of yacon syrup with or before breakfast, lunch and dinner for four weeks and not change anything else about their current diet or exercise regimens. Of the 40 women who lasted the length of the project, 29 of the women lost weight, 14 women lost five pounds or more and the average weight loss was 2.9 pounds.

In addition, a study including obese adult women showed that those who took yacon syrup lost "a significant amount of weight compared to the placebo."

However, Keri cautions that the trials were short term. She also questions whether the monitoring of their diets influenced their weight loss.

But Keri agrees that there are "fiber benefits of yacon syrup. As with all fiber, it goes through our intestinal wall undigested, helping to keep our gut healthy and bowel movements regular."

Fiber, whether in yacon syrup or from other sources, "may help lower cholesterol, maintain blood glucose control and aid in weight loss. FOS, particularly as a prebiotic, acts as food for healthy gut bacteria. It is naturally found in chicory, onions, asparagus, wheat, tomatoes and other fruits, vegetables and grains – way beyond yacon."

Bottom line, says Keri: "If you want to use yacon syrup as a low calorie sweetener – go for it. But be advised that more than about one tablespoon total each day could possibly lead to bloating, nausea and diarrhea. If you want to lose weight, please don’t look for one ingredient or nutrient to be the answer – If you do, you're going to be looking for a very long time."