You may be wasting money on Yacon Syrup weight loss, concludes Oz test

2013-11-06 13:11
Wasting Money on Weight Loss

In a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz puts a natural food with reported weight loss properties to the test that some believe will help you lose weight without dieting or exercise.

“It’s not a supplement, it’s not a pill - it’s a natural food that you can eat every day…it’s called ‘Yacon syrup,’” says Dr. Oz who was impressed by a study’s results that show that this South American staple could be the next big thing in weight loss.

The study Dr. Oz refers to is a paper published in the journal Clinical Nutrition that reports that Yacon syrup may prove to be a surprising weight loss tool based on their results from a study that followed obese women who took 3-4 teaspoons a day of Yacon syrup over a 4-month period and lost an average of 33 pounds and 4 inches each from their waistlines.

Yacon is a sweet potato-shaped vegetable grown in the Andes that is processed into molasses-like syrup used as a sweetener for dishes in South American homes. The taste is described as being kind of “raisiny”—a cross between a fig and a prune. A Yacon dessert for vegans is just one of many dishes that can be prepared using raw Yacon.

Researchers have determined that the health benefits of Yacon syrup go beyond weight loss in that it aids digestion and appears to regulate blood sugar levels in obese pre-menopausal women with insulin resistance. As a sugar substitute Yacon syrup is also beneficial in that it contains only 7 calories per teaspoon.

Dr. Oz explains that researchers believe that Yacon syrup works in two ways:

The first way is by changing the bacterial type in your gut from “fat-causing” bacteria to “skinny-causing” bacteria. The skinny-causing bacteria include the types Bifidus and Lactobacillus that take a sugar called “fructooligosaccharide” in Yacon syrup and convert it into short-chain fatty acids, which then decreases cholesterol synthesis in the liver and enhances tissue sensitivity to insulin.

The second way Yacon syrup works is by increasing feelings of satiety by decreasing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

“By having less of that hunger hormone, you tend to feel fuller longer,” says Dr. Oz who adds that according to the study, Yacon syrup works best for people under the following conditions:

• People who are obese or overweight
• People who need more fiber in their diet
• People who are constantly constipated
• People who have elevated blood sugar levels

“But the biggest question remains—exactly how much weight did the women here lose? Could this be the weight loss game changer you’ve been waiting for?” asks Dr. Oz as he reveals to viewers his own testing of the effectiveness of Yacon syrup on weight loss.

To put Yacon syrup to the test, Dr. Oz recruited 60 women to participate in a study by his staff where the women were followed for a 4-week period where they were instructed to eat one teaspoon of Yacon syrup with or before each meal. Furthermore, they were also instructed not to change their dieting or exercising habits during this period so that changes in their weight—if any―could be attributed to the Yacon syrup.

By the end of the 4-week long study period, 40 of the 60 women completed the study and yielded these results:

• 29 (73%) of the women lost weight
• 14 women lost five pounds or more
• Average weight loss was 2.9 pounds
• Average reduction in waist size was 1.9 inches
• Total weight lost among all the women was 153 pounds
• 27 (68%) recommended Yacon as a weight loss tool

Taking the study a step further, Dr. Oz consulted with a number of other physicians and experts on diet and nutrition for their opinions about whether or not Yacon syrup promotes weight loss. What they had to say was possibly the most beneficial piece of information for viewers of The Dr. Oz Show that has never been addressed before―but should be: that many studies or claims of studies supporting a miracle pill or supplement for weight loss are not truly supported by rigorous scientific testing that proves or disproves purported benefits toward weight loss.

On stage, Dr. Oz introduces Dr. Garth Davis from Memorial Herman Hospital and Leslie Bonci, RD, the former spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

“I have some concerns—first of all, one study does not prove anything,” says Dr. Davis. “Second of all, I get worried when we start telling people about these special products—‘Here’s a syrup from the Andes.’ And what happens is that people stop thinking about diet and exercise and they go for this magic pill. It’s magic pills that got us here in the first place as an obese country with fast food, fast this and fast that. Now we are looking for a fast pill to help us, and what happens is that marketing companies will take this and it won’t be Yacon fruit anymore―it will be some kind of fruit oligosaccharide in a pill. And the FDA doesn’t monitor that, and it doesn’t work, and it sells people false dreams.”

While Dr. Davis does agree that Yacon may be beneficial for people wanting a low caloric diet, he tells viewers that the active ingredient in Yacon is also found in artichokes, bananas, leeks and onions; and therefore, rather than focusing on a miracle fruit to help you lose weight, that people need to focus on eating a healthier diet filled with fruits and vegetables.

“Really, I think that a plant-based diet is the answer–not some miracle fruit that is found in the Andes,” says Dr. Davis.

Ms. Bonci adds that Yacon fruit may help somewhat in keeping calorie counts down as a sugar substitute, but that it [weight loss] comes down to having a balance in what we eat and how much.

“Perhaps it might be one of the ways to help people lose a little bit of weight, but at the end of the day we have to do all of those other things too―looking for balance in a diet and making sure we move too,” says Ms. Bonci.

In a web page on The Dr. Oz Show website that consists of expert responses to the Yacon study discussed on The Dr. Oz Show, there was a consistent expression of opinion that studies that report weight loss benefits from Yacon fruit are not rigorously supported by clear data―that there are only a few studies published, that there is a lack of statistical significance, nor have the studies’ design been thoroughly weighted against confounding factors such as a placebo effect. In other words, the promise of Yacon as a natural fruit that can promote weight loss is too scientifically flimsy for these experts to wholeheartedly reach a consensus that this is something the public should go to the stores and buy today.

The take home message behind this Dr. Oz episode is that regardless of what is promoted as the next best thing for weight loss, in reality experts in-the-know know that the real science is just not there supporting many of these claims and that people are wasting their money hoping for a quick and easy fix. Dr. Oz to his credit revealed that experts who do research on diet and nutrition often find fault with many claims behind weight loss miracles; however, Dr. Oz believes that Yacon fruit may make a difference with some people as demonstrated by his study with guest participants who reported minor weight loss success.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

References:

“Yacon syrup: beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans” Clinical Nutrition (2009) Apr; 28(2):182-7; Genta, S. et al.

The Dr. Oz Show—“Expert Responses to the Yacon Project”

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