A lot of people need to lose weight. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to achieve and long-term success is rare. All sorts of things are claimed to help with this… diets, potions and pills that are supposed to make things easier. One of them is called glucomannan, a natural dietary fibre that is claimed to be an effective weight-loss supplement
This article takes a detailed look at the science behind glucomannan and whether it is something you should be taking.
Konjac root is another name for glucomannan, the fibre derived from the root of the konjac plant that grows primarily in Asia. This plant has been used in a variety of forms as a treatment for a number of medical problems, including as a method for stimulating and maintaining weight loss. After consumption, the root displays properties within the digestive system that, proponents of glucomannan use claim, can inexpensively control hunger and decrease caloric intake. However, glucomannan use is associated with several potentially serious side effects, and its use has been banned in several countries.
Konjac root -- also known as konjac fibre and konjac mannon, as well as glucomannan -- is derived from the Amorphophallus konjac plant roots and consists of polysaccharide chains that cannot be absorbed by the digestive system. Konjac root is marketed in four main forms: as a dietary supplement, in meal-replacement drinks, in noodles--often called konjac, shiritaki or yam noodles--and in a dried flake form, designed to be sprinkled on food.
According to the Wall Street Journal, scientific researchers believe the beneficial effects of konjac root are due the fibre's ability to dissolve and swell in the water contained in the digestive tract, forming a thick solution that slows the rate of digestion and the absorption of both fat and carbohydrates. It is thought that the presence of this thick solution in the intestines promotes a feeling of fullness, decreases appetite and can inhibit cholesterol absorption.
How Does It Help With Weight Loss?
Glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber. Like other soluble fibers, it is believed to promote weight loss via several mechanisms:
It also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which turn it into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, shown to protect against fat gain in some animal studies.
Feeding the friendly gut bacteria may also have other benefits, and some studies have shown a correlation between altered gut bacteria and body weight.
These mechanisms are believed to be similar to the effects of other soluble fibres on weight loss. However, glucomannan is different from other soluble fibres due to it being even more viscous, which makes it particularly effective.
Bottom Line: Like other soluble fibres, glucomannan absorbs water in the stomach and contributes to satiety. It may also promote reduced calorie intake and weight loss via several other mechanisms.
Does it Really Work?Studying mechanisms is always interesting… but what we really want to know is if this stuff leads to actual pounds being lost.
Fortunately, we have several randomized controlled trials on glucomannan. These types of studies are the “gold standard” of scientific experimentation in humans.
In the biggest one, 176 healthy overweight people were randomly assigned to ingest either a supplement with glucomannan, or placebo (a dummy pill), while on a calorie-restricted diet.
Three different glucomannan supplements were tested, with varying dosages. Some also had other fibers added to them.
These were the results after 5 weeks:
As you can see, weight loss was significantly greater in the glucomannan groups.
There are several other studies that agree with this. Glucomannan causes modest weight loss in overweight and obese individuals when regularly ingested before a meal
It is especially effective when combined with a weight-reducing diet. The same applies to all weight-loss methods… they work best in combination.
Bottom line: When taken before meals, glucomannan may lead to modest weight loss in overweight individuals, mainly by creating a feeling of fullness and reducing energy intake.
Other Health BenefitsSome research studies indicate that supplementing with konjac root helps induce weight loss, even in overweight individuals who are not actively seeking to consume fewer calories. In addition, the large amount of soluble fibre glucomannan provides can help people who have trouble eating the amount of fibre recommended for their daily intake requirements. Konjac root supplements are simple to obtain and inexpensive when compared to the cost of other weight loss aids.
In addition to promoting weight loss, glucomannan may improve a number of risk factors for heart disease.
According to a systematic review of 14 studies, glucomannan can:
The main mechanism by which it reduces blood cholesterol is by decreasing absorption of cholesterol in the gut.
According to these studies, adding glucomannan to your diet could potentially lower the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Being a water-soluble fibre, glucomannan has also been successfully used to treat constipation
Glucomannan does not have any effect on weight loss unless it is taken before a meal. Timing recommendations range from 15 minutes to 1 hour before a meal.
Glucomannan is well tolerated and is generally considered safe. However, if glucomannan expands before reaching the stomach, it may cause choking or blockage of the throat and esophagus (the tube that moves food from your mouth to your stomach).
To prevent this, it should be washed down with 1-2 glasses of water or other liquid.
Some people may experience mild side effects, such as bloating, flatulence, soft stools or diarrhoea, but this is usually uncommon.
Glucomannan can also reduce the absorption of oral medications like sulfonylurea, a diabetes drug. This can be avoided by taking the medication at least 4 hours after or one hour before ingesting glucomannan.
If you want to try glucomannan, then in my opinion, the best one on the market is: Full Control, by Arbonne. As part of a weight loss regime it has been proven to help you to lose weight. If you have any questions about please just ask.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!