Common Names: Yacon, Bacon, Yakuma

Scientific Name: Smallanthus Sonchifolius

Family: Asteraceae

English Name: Yacón.



Yacon is a perennial, herbaceous plant, with soft stalk that grows to 2m tall. The plant presents terminal flowers of a yellowish orange color in the crown (2). The root system is made up of multiple roots, large, tuberous, elongated and meaty, up to 8 inches in length and 4 inches in diameter, sweet to the taste; and numbering from 4 to 20 among an extensive system of thin fibrose rootlets. The tubers are regular in shape, but sometimes have irregular shapes due to contact with stones or pressure from other roots.  The peel varies in color from cinnamon to dark brown.  A tuber generally weighs between 200 to 500 grams (half a pound to one pound), but can reach up to 4 pounds (2). These tubers or edible roots are characterized by having a cream colored or yellow-orange pulp, some with purple striations, very juicy and sweet to the taste.



HABITAT:  A native Andean plant, it was domesticated long ago and now it is grown in primarily in Peru and also in Bolivia. Optimal growth occurs in areas with temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees Centigrade ( 65 to 77 Fahrenheit).



The Department of Cajamarca in the north of Peru has the largest number of hectares dedicated to this plant in the whole Andean region.



There are phyto-morphic representations in ceramics and textiles of the Nazca culture (500-1200 CE), in the south of Peru, that are attributable to Yacon plants. The Andean cultures attributed to Yacon properties such as anti-diabetic, gastro-intestinal and kidney pain (inflammation) relief as well as skin rejuvenator. Yacon has a high content of inulin, known also as the sugar of tomorrow, used specially by diabetics and in slimming diets; all of which increases its consumption and renown worldwide.



Yacon has great quantities of carbohydrates such as oligofructanes, known as inulin (a polymer of the fructose), a substance appropriate for consumption by diabetics and those seeking a slimming diet. It also has minerals: potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, magnesium, sodium, calcium and copper. Among its vitamins are: vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.


The amount of inulin augments as the roots are exposed to the sun. For example as the roots dry, fructose varies from 2 to 22gr /100gr; alpha-glucose, 2 to 7gr/100gr; beta-glucose, 2 to 6 gr/100gr; and saccharine, 2 to 4gr/100gr.



  • Reduces cholesterol levels.

  • Improves assimilation of calcium.

  • Reduces colon cancer risk.

  • Laxative.

  • Hypoglycemic,

  • Immuno-stimulant.

  • Used in the treatment of constipation, diabetes, osteoporosis.


Helps reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.

Yacon can be considered as a food supplement. It is low in calories and fats, ideal for those following a slimming diet. Helps in reducing the risks of cardiovascular arteriosclerosis, specially that associated with hyper-triglycerides and resistance to insulin, related to hyper-caloric diets.


Apart from most of the roots and tubers that store their carbohydrates as starch, Yacon stores principally fructo-oligo-sacharides (FOS), a special type of sugars with highly beneficial attributes for human health.


FOS cannot be directly digested by the digestive system because we lack the necessary enzymes to metabolize them. This means that FOS are sugars that have little absorbable calories and do not elevate the level of sugar in the blood, which has converted Yacon in a potential resource for the dietetic products market. It is known to be excellent for hypo-caloric and diabetic diets.

FOS keep the flavor sweet, are soluble in water and are found almost exclusively in Yacon.

Different studies conducted with humans and animals have shown the capacity of FOS to reduce the level of lipids in the blood (cholesterol and tri-glycerides) (3)(4).


Improves the assimilation of Calcium

Helps reduce the risks of osteoporosis, because it increases the bio-availability of calcium. Studies conducted by Coudray show an increase in the absorption of calcium between 21% and 34% when 40g of Fructanes (FOS and inulin) are added to the diets of 9 healthy men (6).

In 1999, a test conducted in teenagers (14 to 16) detected a significant increment in calcium absorption (5)(7).

Other studies show evidence that FOS consumption produce an increase in the bone mineral density and the absorption of calcium in the bones. (8).

It has also been reported that chronic consumption of FOS reduces loss of bone mass and of calcium and phosphorous in the bones. This evidence is linked to parameters associated to osteoporosis (9).


Reduces the risks of Colon Cancer.

Studies conducted by the Universities of Minnesota (USA) and Ulster (UK) show evidence that oligo-fructanes help the development of beneficial bacteria that make up the human intestinal flora, slowing down the growth of damaging microorganisms and reducing the population of bacteria that produce toxic substances in the colon (10). This helps reduce the risks of colon cancer.

Other studies have shown that consumption of FOS reduces the risk of developing precancerous lesions in the colon. Different studies have revealed that certain bacteria in the colon, producers of the metabolites associated with colon cancer are produced in lesser quantities when FOS is included in the diet (11)(12)(13)(14).


Relieves Constipation

From the physiologic point of view, FOS are considered as a food fiber because they cannot be digested directly by the digestive system and must be fully fermented in the colon. This gives relief to gastrointestinal problems. Other studies conducted in humans have shown the FOS consumption increases the number of defecations  and the volume of fecal matter; both parameters linked to a diminution of constipation (15)(16). Currently, with the scientific evidence available, it has been recognized that FOS can generate a mild laxative effect that could help people with constipation (5).


In the Treatment of Diabetes:

A study demonstrated that FOS could have a positive effect in Type 2 diabetic persons: the blood parameters for cholesterol and glucose improved significantly after the subjects included FOS in their diets over several days (4).

In contrast to common sugars that are absorbed in the thin intestine as glucose, FOS pass directly to the colon and ferment there completely until forming fatty acids. For this reason, FOS have no relation to high glucose levels in the blood. Thus, the consumption of FOS is recommended by diverse companies in the world as a substitute of common sugar or saccharine.

Another study has shown that consumption of Yacon roots has a hypoglycemic effect in clinically healthy subjects. This means that Yacon roots have an active role in reducing significantly the post-prandial level of glucose in the blood (17).


Stimulates the Immune System

There is experimental evidence that show that FOS can have a regulating effect in the immune system. The effect of FOS on the immune system is indirect, through the stimulation of pre-biotics in the intestines. Mice fed a supplement of FOS in their diet are more resistant, even immune, to systematic infections with certain pathogens (14).



(1)…Antonio Brack EGG. Diccionario Enciclopédico de las Plantas Útiles del Perú. Junio 1999.

(2)…Jorge León. Plantas Medicinales Andinas. Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agrícolas Zona Andina. Lima – Perú.

(3)…Campbell, J.M., L.L.Bauer, G.C. Fahey, A.J.C.L. Hogarth, B.W. Wolf, and D.E. Hunter. 1997. Selected Fructooligosac-charide (1-Kestose, Nystose, and 1 F-beta-fructo-furanosylnystose) composition of foods and feeds. J. Ag. Food Chem. 45: 3076-3082.

(4)…Yamashita K, Kawai & M Itakura, 1984 – Effect of fructooligosaccharides on blood glucose and serum lipids in diabetic subjects. Nutrition Research 4: 961 – 966

(5)…Andersson H, Asp NG, Bruce A, Roos S, Wadström T & AE Wold, 2001 – Health effects of probiotics and prebiotics. A literature review on human studies. Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition 45: 58 – 75.

(6)…Coudray C, Bellanger J, Castiglia-Delavaud C, Rémésy C, Vermorel M & Y Rayssignuier, 1997 – Effect of soluble and partly soluble dietary fibres supplementation on absorption and balance of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc in health young men – European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 51: 375 – 380.

(7)…Van den Heuvel EG, Muys T, Van Dokkum W & G Schaafsma, 1999 – Oligofructose stimulates calcium absorption in adolescents – American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69: 544 – 548

(8)… Takahara S, Morohashi T, Sano T. Ohta A, Yamada S & R Sasa, 2000 – Fructooligosaccharide consumption enhances femoral bone volume and mineral concentrations in rats (research communication) – Journal of Nutrition 130: 1792 – 1795

(9)… Ohta A, Ohtsuki M, Hosono A, Adachi T, Hara H & T Sakata, 1998 – Dietary fructooligosaccharides prevent osteopenia after gastrectomy in rats – Journal of Nutrition 128: 106 – 110.

(10)…Silva, R.F. 1996. Use of Inulin as a Natural Textura Modifier. Cereal Food World 41: 792-79

(11)… Koo M & V Rao, 1991 – Long term effect of bifidobacteria and neosugar on precursor lesions of colonic cancer in mice – Nutrition and Cancer 16: 249 – 257.

(12)…Reddy BS, Hamid & CV Rao, 1997 – Effect of dietary oligofructose and inulin on colonic preneoplastic aberrant crypt foci inhibition – Carcinogenesis 18: 1371 – 1374.

(13)…Rowland IR, Rummey CJ, Coutts JT & LC Lievense, 1988 – Effect of bifidobacterium longum and inulin on gut bacterial metabolism and carcinogen-induced aberrant crypt foci in rats – Carcinogenesis 19: 281-285

(14)…Buddington KK, Jillian BD & RK Buddington, 2002 – Dietary oligofructose and inulin protect mice from enteric and systemic pathogens and tumor inducers – Journal of Nutrion 132: 472-477.

(15)…Alles MS, Hautvast JG, Nagengast FM, Hartemink R, Van Laere KM & JB Jansen, 1996 -  Fate of fructooligosaccharides in the human intestine – British Journal of Nutrition 76: 211 – 221.

(16)…Kleessen B, Sykura B, Zunft HJ & M Blaut, 1997 – Effects of inulin and lactose on fecal microflora, microbial activity, and bowel habit in elderly constipated persons – American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65: 1397 – 1402.

(17)…Mayta P, Payano J, Peláez M, Pichardo L & L Puycán, 2001 – II Simposio Latinoamericano de Raíces y Tubérculos: guía del participante, 28-30 / 11 / 2001 – Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP), Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM), Lima, Perú, np.