Glucomannan is a natural fibre extracted from the roots of the konjac plant. It has many uses and in some Eastern countries it is incorporated into confectionary products, but these days it is becoming increasingly valued as a weight loss provider.
But how can an ingredient used in sweets be considered an effective dieting aid? The answer might surprise you. Although glucomannan offers some of the same benefits as many other fibre providers (lowers cholesterol, improves intestinal fortitude etc.), it also has another ability that sets it apart from alternative natural fibre sources—it is capable of absorbing incredible amounts of moisture. In fact, it is one of the most viscous dietary fibres in the world.
A Natural Fibre
Konjac is a perennial plant that is indigenous to several Asian countries including Indonesia and Japan. Although it is also used as an ingredient in certain regional recipes herbalists in the East have been aware of its medicinal values for over 2,000 years. Konjac has a long history of use as a treatment for coughs, asthma, skin disorders and even tumour suppression. So be it called Konjac or glucomannan, it is a versatile ingredient and it is entirely possible that future studies may reveal this natural wonder has even more benefits to offer mankind.
Glucomannan in Action
Diet supplements that rely on glucomannan to deliver some or all of the promised results are generally taken with plenty of water and are consumed 20 minutes to an hour before eating a meal. If it were to be tossed into a tumbler of water, a single glucomannan capsule would absorb all the water and and turn the contents of the tumbler into a viscous, jelly-like substance. This is exactly what happens inside the stomach, and the presence of the glucomannan jelly creates a feeling of satiety that naturally supresses the appetite. Once the appetite has been quelled in this manner, the user is unable to eat as much food as they normally would. Less food results in a reduced amount of calories being consumed. This makes further weight gain unlikely; and if the amount of calories consumed each day falls lower than the body’s requirements it will begin to start burning body fat to obtain the extra calories it needs.
Other advantages offered by glucomannan include:
- Low in calories
- Delays gastric emptying (allowing the stomach to feel fuller for longer)
- Reduces the absorption of protein and fat (1g protein = 4 cal, 1g fat = 9 cal)
- Promotes the growth of friendly bacteria (flora) in the intestines
A Scientifically Proven Aid to Weight Loss
Numerous studies are supportive of glucomannan’s abilities as a weight loss provider.
In one study, conducted at the University of Tromsø in Norway, 176 volunteers were given either a glucomannan supplement or a placebo. Both groups had to adhere to the same low calorie diet. To further test the abilities of glucomannan some of the glucomannan group members were given supplements that also contained either guar gum or alginate (both alternative natural fibre sources).
As illustrated in the graph below, all of the glucomannan supplements proved to be effective for weight loss, but the group members who received the ingredient in its pure state (group 1) attained the best results of all.
After examining the data, the researchers at Tromsø concluded: “Glucomannan induced body weight reduction in healthy overweight subjects, whereas the addition of guar gum and alginate did not seem to cause additional loss of weight.”
Additional Glucomannan-Related Health Benefits
Although research into the many benefits glucomannan offers continues to be ongoing a systematic roundup of some of the studies to date reveals the ingredient has a proven ability to provide a number of health benefits.
- Lower total cholesterol by 19 mg/dL (0.5 mmol/L)
- Lower LDL cholesterol by 16 mg/dL (0.4 mmol/L)
- Lower triglycerides by 11 mg/dL (0.12 mmol/L)
- Fasting blood sugar by 7.4 mg/dL (0.4 mmol/L)
Given the many health benefits the ingredient offers, it is perhaps a little sad that its biggest claim to fame in the west is as a weight loss provider.
Nevertheless that appears to be the case, but bearing in mind obesity is becoming an increasingly common problem, on a worldwide scale, and the many dangers obesity poses to the health, glucomannan’s ability to provide natural appetite suppression could potentially save lives.
So whether used in the traditional manner favoured by Chinese herbalists, or as a modern-day weight loss aid, the natural benefits of glucomannan are too great to be ignored.