The yam (Dioscorea sp) belongs to the Discotic family and is a plant that has an
herbaceous and scandal stem being characterized by forming tubers. The most broadcast
are D rotundata, D alata, D trífida, D esculenta and D cayennensis [1-3]. Its culture is quite
common in African countries, especially in west Africa, but also in Brazil, mainly in Southeast
and Northeast Regions [4-6]. The tuber is very well accepted in culinary, being used cooked
itself or in preparations, but it’s use is quite explored in other areas, such as the use for
medicinal purposes, with promises to improve the systemic functioning of the organism
and to be beneficial in the treatment of some diseases . Because of the association the
tuber has been studied for the purpose of maintenance and/or recovery health as well as
their functional properties. The yam has important food characteristics. The analysis of its
composition evidences that it’s rich in carbohydrates, presenting a good energetic value,
excellent fiber content, low glycemic index (37±8) and glycemic load (13), being still a good
source of vitamins and minerals (Table 1); [8-13]. Recent studies point to the beneficial effect
and reinforce a diversity of properties related to tuber consumption, or its isolated bioactive
compounds. The main functions attributed to the yam are immunomodulatory, antioxidant
and anti-inflammatory action, modulation in lipid and glucose uptake and metabolism and
performance as protective agent for the treatment and prevention of menopause, cancer and
Table 1:Centesimal composition of yam (Dioscorea sp).
aConverted to wet basis.
bCalculated based on protein, lipid and carbohydrate values.
NA: Not applicable.
There are several components involved in the realization of these functions, such as
Dioscuri, the major tuber storage protein of yam and one of the most studded one and well
related to antioxidant effect associated to improve the immunologic system [14,15]. The
antioxidant effect is also pointed to the flavonoids present in the tuber; evidences show that
it is involved in modulation of lipid peroxidation .
Other studies cited the discerning, related specially to immunomodulatory effect, being
tested with excellent results as anti-viral . The modulation of lipid and glucose metabolism
is commonly associated to allantois or the use of extract or the yam itself, presented an ant
obesogenic effect too [18,19]. The protective effect against cancer, especially the breast and
colon are further studied with the use of yam extract or a culinary preparation with yam [20,21]. The hypertension is also prevented in use of in nature yam
or Dioscuri isolated, by inhibitory effect on angiotensin-converting
enzyme (ACE) activity [22,23]. The yam is classically used in natural
hormone replacement in the fight against menopause. Pieces of
evidence pointed that estrogenic action apparently is associated to
the consumption of the whole food and not of specific compounds
. Taking in account that functional foods are foods that have
a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition and
that the yam presents a diversity of factors that fit it as such. I’m
secure, based in whole of these evidences pointed, that the yam as a
functional food. In addition to the basic nutritional characteristics,
the tuber exerts a positive effect on health and disease prevention.
Paula, Pirozi MCD, Puiatti M, Borges JT, Durango AM (2012) Physicochemical and morphological characteristics of rhizophores of inhame (Dioscorea alata). Biotechnol in the Agropecu and Agroindustrial Sect 10(2): 61-70.
Guedes CKRM (2014) Technological potential of yam (Discorea cayennensis) in the formulation of functional drinks based on tropical fruits and Lactobacillus casei.
Professor, Chief Doctor, Director of Department of Pediatric Surgery, Associate Director of Department of Surgery, Doctoral Supervisor Tongji hospital, Tongji medical college, Huazhong University of Science and Technology