Plant Foods for Human Nutrition

, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 222–228 | Cite as

Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius): A Functional Food

  • Grethel Teresa Choque DelgadoEmail author
  • Wirla Maria da Silva Cunha Tamashiro
  • Mário Roberto Maróstica Junior
  • Glaucia Maria Pastore
Original Paper


Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is an Andean tuberous root that is regarded as a functional food given that it contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin and phenolic compounds. The consumption of FOS and inulin improves the growth of bifidobacteria in the colon, enhances mineral absorption and gastrointestinal metabolism and plays a role in the regulation of serum cholesterol. Furthermore, the literature reports that the consumption of these prebiotics promotes a positive modulation of the immune system, improving resistance to infections and allergic reactions. Certain studies have demonstrated the potential of yacon as an alternative food source for those patients with conditions that require dietary changes. This review intends to describe the potential of yacon as a prebiotic and its cultivation and industrial processing for human consumption.


Fructans Fructooligosaccharides Phenolic compounds Prebiotics Yacon 





Non-digestible oligosaccharides


Pan American Health Organisation


Short-chain fatty acids



The authors thank the CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico - “National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development”) for financial support.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA) (2005) Alimentos. Comissões e Grupos de Trabalho. Comissão Tecnocientífica de Assessoramento em Alimentos Funcionais e Novos Alimentos. Alimentos com Alegações de Propriedades Funcionais e ou de Saúde, Novos Alimentos/Ingredientes, Substâncias Bioativas e Probióticos. Brasil.ões/tecno.htm. Accessed 1 February 2012
  2. 2.
    Vos AP, van Esch BC, Stahl B, M’Rabet L, Folkerts G, Nijkamp FP, Garssen J (2007) Dietary supplementation with specific oligosaccharide mixtures decreases parameters of allergic asthma in mice. Int Immunopharmacol 7(Suppl 12):1582–1587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Graefe S, Hermann M, Manrique I, Golombek S, Buerkert A (2004) Effects of post-harvest treatment on the carbohydrate composition of yacon roots in the Peruvian Andes. Field Crop Res 86:157–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Valentová K, Lebeda A, Dolezalová I, Jirovský D, Simonovska B, Vovk I, Kosina P, Gasmanová N, Dziechciarková M, Ulrichová J (2006) The biological and chemical variability of yacon. J Agric Food Chem 54:1347–1352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Pedreschi R, Campos D, Noratto G, Chirinos R, Cisneros-Zevallos L (2003) Andean yacon root (Smallanthus sonchifolius Poepp. Endl) frutooligosaccharides as a potential source of prebiotics. J Agric Food Chem 51:5278–5284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Valentová K, Cvak L, Muck A, Ulrichova J, Simanek V (2003) Antioxidant activity of extracts from the leaves of Smallanthus sonchifolius. Eur J Nutr 42:61–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Simonovska B, Vovk I, Andrensek S, Valentová K, Ulrichová J (2003) Investigation of phenolic acids in yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) leaves and tubers. J Chromatogr A 1016:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Watzl B, Girrbach S, Roller M (2005) Inulin, oligofructose and immunomodulation. Br J Nutr 93(Suppl 1):S49–S55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    National Research Council (NRC) (1989) Lost crops of the Incas: little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide Cultivation. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Zardini E (1991) Ethnobotanical notes on yacon, Polymnia sonchifolia (asteraceae). Econ Bot 45(Suppl 1):72–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Manrique I, Párraga A, Hermann M (2005) Yacon syrup: principles and processing. Series: Conservación y uso de la biodiversidad de raíces y tubérculos andinos: Una década de investigación para el desarrollo (1993–2003). No. 8B. International Potato Center, Universidad Nacional Daniel Alcides Carrión, Erbacher Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Lima, PeruGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Valentová K, Sersen F, Ulrichová J (2005) Radical scavenging and anti-lipoperoxidative activities of Smallanthus sonchifolius leaf extracts. J Agric Food Chem 53:5577–5582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lobo AR, Colli C, Alvares EP, Filisetti TM (2007) Effects of fructans-containing yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius Poepp & Endl.) flour on cecum mucosal morphometry, calcium and magnesium balance, and bone calcium retention in growing rats. Br J Nutr 97:776–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Manrique I, Hermann M, Bernet T (2004) Yacon - fact sheet. Lima, Peru: International Potato Center (CIP). Accessed 29 July, 2012
  15. 15.
    Roberfroid M, Gibson GR, Hoyles L, McCartney AL, Rastall R, Rowland I, Wolvers D, Watzl B, Szajewska H, Stahl B, Guarner F, Respondek F, Whelan K, Coxam V, Davicco MJ, Léotoing L, Wittrant Y, Delzenne NM, Cani PD, Neyrinck AM, Meheust A (2010) Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits. Br J Nutr 104(Suppl 2):S1–S63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Choque Delgado GT, Tamashiro WMSC, Pastore G (2010) Immunomodulatory effects of fructans. Food Res Int 43:1231–1236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Choque Delgado GT, Thomé R, Gabriel DL, Tamashiro WMSC, Pastore G (2012) Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius)-derived fructooligosaccharides improves the immune parameters in the mouse. Nutr Res 32:884–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kapuler A, Gurusiddiah S (1994) The twenty protein aminoacids free in the juices of our common vegetables and herbs. J Home Consum Hortic 1:3–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Takenaka M, Yan X, Ono H, Yoshida M, Nagata T, Nakanishi T (2003) Caffeic acid derivates in the roots of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius). J Agric Chem 51:793–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Neves V, da Silva A (2007) Polyphenol oxidase from Yacon roots (Smallanthus sonchiflolius). J Agric Chem 55(Suppl 6):2424–2430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Genta SB, Cabrera WM, Grau A, Sánchez SS (2005) Subcronic 4-month oral toxicity study of dried Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) roots as a diet supplement in rats. Food Chem Toxicol 43:1657–1665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Aybar MJ, Sánchez Riera AN, Grau A, Sánchez SS (2001) Hyploglycemic effect of the water of Smallantus sonchifolius (Yacon) leaves in normal and diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol 74:125–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bibas Bonet ME, Meson O, De Moreno De Leblanc A, Dogi CA, Chaves S, Kortsarz A, Grau A, Perdigón G (2010) Prebiotic effect of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) on intestinal mucosa using a mouse model. Food Agric Immunol 21(Suppl 2):175–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    de Moura NA, Caetano BF, Sivieri K, Urbano LH, Cabello C, Rodrigues MA, Barbisan LF (2012) Protective effects of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) intake on experimental colon carcinogenesis. Food Chem Toxicol 50:2902–2910CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Habib NC, Honoré SM, Genta SB, Sánchez SS (2011) Hypolipidemic effect of Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) roots on diabetic rats: biochemical approach. Chem Biol Interact 194(Suppl 1):31–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Büyükbalci A, El SN (2008) Determination of in vitro antidiabetic effects, antioxidant activities and phenol contents of some herbal teas. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 63:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chemler JA, Lock LT, Koffas MA, Tzanakakis ES (2007) Standardized biosynthesis of flavan-3-ols with effects on pancreatic beta-cell insulin secretion. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 77(Suppl 4):797–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Valentová K, Truong NT, Moncion A, de Waziers I, Ulrichová J (2007) Induction of glucokinase mRNA by dietary phenolic compounds in rat liver cells in vitro. J Agric Food Chem 55(Suppl 19):7726–7731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Pérez-Jiménez J, Serrano J, Tabernero M, Arranz S, Díaz-Rubio ME, García-Diz L, Goñi I, Saura-Calixto F (2009) Bioavailability of phenolic antioxidants associated with dietary fiber: plasma antioxidant capacity after acute and long-term intake in humans. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 64:102–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Genta S, Cabrera W, Habib N, Pons J, Carillo IM, Grau A, Sánchez S (2009) Yacon syrup: beneficial effects on obesity and insulin resistance in humans. Clin Nutr 28:182–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Genta SB, Cabrera WM, Mercado MI, Grau A, Catalán CA, Sánchez SS (2010) Hypoglycemic activity of leaf organic extracts from Smallanthus sonchifolius: constituents of the most active fractions. Chem Biol Interact 185:143–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hong SS, Lee SA, Han XH, Lee MH, Hwang JS, Park JS, Oh KW, Han K, Lee MK, Lee H, Kim W, Lee D, Hwang BY (2008) Melampolides from the leaves of Smallanthus sonchifolius and their inhibitory activity of LPS-induced nitric oxide production. Chem Pharm Bull 56(Suppl 2):199–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Roberfroid M, Cump J, Devogelaer JP (2002) Dietary chicory inulin increases whole-body bone mineral density in growing male rats. J Nutr 132:3599–3602Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Abrams SA, Griffin IJ, Hawthorne KM, Liang L, Gunn SK, Darlington G, Ellis KJ (2005) A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr 82:471–476Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Pinto M, Gonçalez E, Rossi M, Felício J, Medina C, Fernandes M, Simoni IC (2001) Activity of the aqueous extract from Polymnia sonchifolia leaves on growth and production of aflatoxin B1 by Aspergillus flavus. Braz J Microbiol 32:127–129Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Joung H, Kwon DY, Choi JG, Shin DY, Chun SS, Yu YB, Shin DW (2010) Antibacterial and synergistic effects of Smallanthus sonchifolius leaf extracts against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus under light intensity. J Nat Med 64:212–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Yun EY, Kim HS, Kim YE, Kang MK, Ma JE, Lee GD, Cho YJ, Kim HC, Lee JD, Hwang YS, Jeong YY (2010) A case of anaphylaxis after the ingestion of yacon. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2:149–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    de Oliveira RB, de Paula DA, Rocha BA, Franco JJ, Gobbo-Neto L, Uyemura SA, dos Santos WF, Da Costa FB (2011) Renal toxicity caused by oral use of medicinal plants: the yacon example. J Ethnopharmacol 133:434–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Maldonado S, Singh J (2008) Efecto de gelificantes en la formulación de dulce de yacón. Ciênc Tecnol Aliment 28(Suppl 2):429–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Moscatto JA, Borsato D, Bona E, de Oliveira AS, de Oliveira MCH (2006) The optimization of the formulation for a chocolate cake containing inulin and yacon meal. Int J Food Sci Tech 41:181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Cazetta ML, Martins PMM, Monti R, Contiero J (2005) Yacon (Polymnia sonchifolia) extract as a substrate to produce inulinase by Kluyveromyces marxianus var. bulgaricus. J Food Eng 66:301–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Reis FR, Lenzi MK, Masson ML (2012) Effect of vacuum drying conditions on the quality of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) slices: process optimization towards color quality. J Food Process Preserv 36:67–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ribeiro JA (2008) Estudos químicos e bioquímicos do yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) in natura e processado e influência do seu consumo sobre níveis glicêmicos e lipídeos fecais de ratos. Juciane de Abreu Ribeiro.-Lavras: UFLAGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Baroni S, Suzuki-Kemmelmeieret F, Caparroz-Assef SM, Nakamura RC, Bersani-Amado CA (2008) Effect of crude extracts of leaves of Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) on glycemia in diabetic rats. Braz J Pharm Sci 44(Suppl 3):521–530Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Raga DD, Alimboyoguen AB, del Fierro RS, Ragasa CY (2010) Hypoglycaemic effects of tea extracts and ent-kaurenoic acid from Smallanthus sonchifolius. Nat Prod Res 24(18):1771–1782Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grethel Teresa Choque Delgado
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wirla Maria da Silva Cunha Tamashiro
    • 2
  • Mário Roberto Maróstica Junior
    • 3
  • Glaucia Maria Pastore
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Food Science, School of Food EngineeringUniversity of CampinasCampinasBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Genetics, Evolution and Bioagents, Institute of BiologyUniversity of CampinasCampinasBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Food and Nutrition, School of Food EngineeringUniversity of CampinasCampinasBrazil

Personalised recommendations