Glucomannan is amongst the healthiest, most beneficial natural forms of fibre available. In fact, the Glucomannan benefits are wide ranging and varied.
You can find it in supplement form – plenty of weight loss products will contain it – as well as in drink mixes. Some foods can be fortified with it, such as flour and pasta. In fact, shirataki noodles use it as their flour source.
It is also a great emulsifier. You will be able to find it in plenty of foods for its ability to thicken textures. Here, it will be hidden behind the E-number signifier E425-ii. Don’t be fooled, though. That’s konjac root extract. It’s glucomannan.
We get it as an extract from konjac root, or elephant yam, where it makes up 40% of its natural dry weight. Konjac root grows in Southeast Asia. As a result, it crops up throughout forms of different traditional medicine in the region, as well as in staple foodstuffs like tofu, noodles, and even konjac jelly.
Today we will be looking more detail at the benefits that Glucomannan offers.
We often see glucomannan included in supplements because of its role as one of the more viscous dietary fibres, and in no small part due to its fantastic water absorption.
It can swell to around fifty times its starting size in the gut, leading to much greater satiation. In fact, if you ever add just a drop of it to a glass of water, the whole lot will turn into a thick gel.
Glucomannan has been looked into in great detail for the potential health benefits arising from its absorptive, viscous nature.
It is thought to help with body composition, including in weight loss, as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels and insulin output, and lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. It may also help as a supplement for diabetes, obesity and constipation, and may have prebiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The research is a little young and is far from conclusive. Though glucomannan, or rather konjac root itself, has a long history of use for many of these issues, more scientific data are needed to fully verify these claims.
It is generally believed to be healthy and safe to take, however, with few side effects. And the potential health benefits are quite profound, including the following:
May help to improve body composition
Glucomannan is one of the greatest weight loss tools out there. In fact, many weight loss supplements base their claims almost completely on its inclusion in their recipes.
Glucomannan can swell to many times its natural size by absorbing water, as we have seen. This means that if you take it and drink plenty of water, you will get a degree of bulk in your stomach that will promote satiation – you will feel fuller for longer without taking on extra calories.
This makes it far easier to maintain a calorie deficit as you consume less energy to feel as full.
Soluble fibre like glucomannan can also mitigate sugar and cholesterol absorption. It creates something of a protective coating around the bowel wall which slows down the speed at which food is processed. It sits in your stomach for longer. This further increases levels of satiety.
Data are mixed on glucomannan’s efficacy for weight loss, though there is plenty of evidence in its favor.
For example, some research has suggested that glucomannan supplementation can reduce body weight in overweight or obese adults who are otherwise healthy. Other data, however, showed that participants taking four grams of glucomannan daily for eight weeks saw no effect on their weight loss, body composition, levels of hunger and satiation, or their cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
One landmark study looking at glucomannan noodles compared with carb-dense versions found that they led to a much greater level of satiety and greatly diminished hunger levels. Participants eating the glucomannan noodles consumed far fewer calories later on in the day, highlighting its benefits for maintaining that all-important calorie deficit.
May help to balance and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels
Glucomannan also forms a protective coating around food. This inhibits absorption of both cholesterol and bile acid. It can therefore lower cholesterol levels in theory.
Given its role in delaying stomach emptying and thus glucose circulation through the intestines, it should also be able to improve blood sugar levels, lowering and balancing them. This is in fact one of the main arguments in favor of eating plenty of dietary fibre, of which glucomannan is simply a profoundly good example.
This has all been borne out of data. Its role in reducing blood glucose and cholesterol levels in healthy individuals has been well substantiated, as has its role in blood glucose and cholesterol levels in those suffering with diabetes.
May therefore aid in combatting diabetes
Higher absorption rates in the small intestine, triggered by slowed stomach emptying, can increase insulin sensitivity. Reduced speed in sugar absorption means lower blood sugar elevation. These are both crucial in combatting the effects of diabetes.
Though it cannot and should not be used to treat diabetes, dietary fibre is nonetheless therefore a fantastic weapon in your fight against diabetes symptoms. Glucomannan has been shown to be particularly effective at controlling diabetes.
May help with digestive health
We should all be aiming for around 25-30 grams of fibre per day. Of this, about 6 to 8 grams should be soluble fibre. Low fibre diets – those that fall well short of these targets – are typically characterized by constipation. Soluble fibers like glucomannan can help here.
They help to improve digestive health.
Glucomannan is one of the better soluble fibre sources. In taking on so much water, it bulks out your stools. This gives them shape and makes them far easier to pass. A single teaspoon of glucomannan will contain around 4 grams of water soluble fibre, meaning that a single teaspoon in conjunction with a mixed diet should keep your digestive health on track.
Glucomannan also has prebiotic properties. This means that it feeds healthy bacteria in your gut, thus improving your overall microbiome. This will have varied, profound benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. It has also been shown to improve bowel movements as quantities of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli rise.
Glucomannan Side Effects
Glucomannan is generally considered to be safe for use, especially in the short-term.
There are few side effects related to it, especially if you stick to recommended doses (see below). There is little data on long term use, so there is no way to know for sure how safe it is when taken over an extended period.
Glucomannan use has however been linked to a few gastrointestinal issues. These include gas, bloating, stomach discomfort, and diarrhea. As it is so absorbent, it can also be problematic if you don’t drink enough water when taking it. It can lead to esophageal or intestinal blockages. Ensure you drink at least eight ounces of water, or a large glass, when taking glucomannan supplements, and to drink regularly throughout the day.
If you’re on any pre-existing medical regime, consult your healthcare provider before changing your supplement regime.
There is no agreed-upon correct dose for taking glucomannan. However, there are a few rough guidelines we can put into effect.
Firstly, it is generally considered safe to take up to nine grams of glucomannan per day, which should cover your soluble fibre intake. This should be split between several servings (3-4) rather than taken all at once.
Three grams daily, split across three even doses, should be sufficient for weight loss purposes. This is lower than what is recommended for many other fibre sources. However, as glucomannan can expand so much, you need far less of it.
It’s best to take glucomannan before a meal – anything from 15 minutes to an hour should suffice. This will make it most impactful on your weight loss efforts.
Glucomannan: The Take Home
Glucomannan is a very potent weight loss aid. Taking it a short while before you eat can lead to far greater feelings of satiation. In effect, you will be able to feel full on far less food. This means that you should be able to maintain a calorie deficit far more easily, without experiencing any of the hunger pangs associated with restricted eating plans.
The benefits extend well beyond weight loss efforts, however. It can help to balance your blood sugar levels, decreasing them, whilst also lowering your cholesterol levels. It will aid your digestive health, making constipation far less likely, or overcoming it ably where needed. And it should help to feed your microbiome, which will have far reaching consequences for your overall health.
I always like to see glucomannan included in weight loss supplements. I also like to see high quality fibre sources included in any diet. Supplementation may well be exactly what you’re looking for.