Soluble fiber like oats, psyllium, and barley are digested by probiotics in our guts. They have been proven to help lower cholesterol levels, balance the blood sugar, and even help with weight control. Glucomannan, derived from the roots of konjac plant, has traditionally been used in Asia and for several medicinal purposes from asthma to skin disorders. It’s now emerging as a new type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic, and lowers cholesterol and keeps the blood sugar levels balanced.
We’ve listed some health benefit claims for glucomannan to help you determine if you should be including it in your diet with glucomannan-rich foods or take powders and supplements!
First, don’t get it confused with probiotics! They are related though, so here’s a breakdown in their key difference: probiotics are good bacteria that benefit our digestive system, while prebiotics is food for our probiotics.
The body can digest probiotics (especially since it comes in the form of yogurt and other dairy products) but can’t do the same for prebiotics. After food passes through our stomach, the soluble fibers go to the large intestine, where this prebiotics nourish the good bacteria in our gut.
Research found the correlation between fiber intake and prebiotics. Since prebiotics help friendly bacteria flourish in our intestines, it actually promotes better gut health and lowers our risk for weight gain and obesity.
Additionally, it helps lower our risk for cardiovascular diseases by keeping our cholesterol levels healthy and promotes better stress response and hormonal balance.
Lowers Cholesterol for a Healthy Heart
Fiber isn’t just for absorbing water in your body to avoid bloating and inflammation. Its absorptive properties also allow it to absorb water in our digestive tract, which significantly reduces the amount of cholesterol that will be left floating in our bodies.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an analysis of 14 glucomannan studies and its uses for lowering cholesterol levels and controlling blood glucose. Although it found that glucomannan provided beneficial effects to triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, it did not do much for blood pressure, or HDL cholesterol.
Gut and Constipation Relief
If you’re on a diet that doesn’t contain much fiber, then this is probably one problem glucomannan can solve for you. Its bulk-forming properties help the body form larger, bulkier stools that will pass through the colon easily.
A study in 2008 found that regular doses of glucomannan supplement promoted better bowel movements and healthier colons by 30 percent.
Glucose and Insulin Control
In relation, the bulk-forming agents of konjac glucomannan delay the rate by which the food exits the stomach and enters the large intestine. The delay allows for a better and more controlled absorption rate of nutrients into the bloodstream, therefore controlling glucose and insulin surges, particularly for diabetics.
Check out our ABCs of food for diabetics here!
More studies are also proving that taking glucomannan before or with meals can reduce insulin and glucose response by at least half and that it has been effective in reducing the glycemic index of foods often considered high risk for heart diseases as well.
The Widely Acclaimed Benefit: Weight Loss
There are many products on the market that say glucomannan is an effective weight loss supplement, so if you’re looking to purchase a bottle for this specific purpose, here are some things you should probably know first.
The Journal of Obesity published a study in 2013 that gave its participants a glucomannan supplement and a placebo one that was taken before each meal. After two months, the 53 participants, who were either obese or overweight, reported no significant decrease in their body weight, or body fat.
On the other hand, a study has shown that two to four grams of glucomannan daily resulted in significant weight loss in overweight and obese participants.
More likely, the weight loss claims are connected to the constipation relief that glucomannan offers since it provides healthier gut and prevents the body from storing unwanted junk.
Since it is a soluble fiber, glucomannan has a low-calorie content. It can also absorb 50 times its weight, which makes you feel full for longer, and the fact that it’s slow in passing through the stomach to the intestine adds to the satiety you feel. This, of course, results in you not having cravings every minute of the day and prevents you from eating more than your body can take.
Glucomannan can absorb liquid 50 times its own weight and has the possibility to lead to dehydration. It’s important to take its capsule form with a full eight-ounce glass of water.
If you have abnormalities in the esophagus or gut, it’s not advisable to take it in powder or pill form because you might have difficulty swallowing it. Instead, opt for food with glucomannan as the main ingredient. It can substitute for gelatin, and Japanese-style shirataki noodles are another option to try it. It also comes in powder or flour form, which is considered safe to consume.
Capsule forms are safe when taken medicinally for up to four months. Keep it out of reach of children, however, since solid tablets are difficult to swallow and cause blockage in the throat and intestines.
If you’re a diabetic wanting to try glucomannan supplements, consult with your physician first. The supplements might cause your blood sugar to fall too low, especially if you’re already taking prescribed medication designed to lower your blood sugar levels.
There’s not enough evidence to support if glucomannan is safe to take during pregnancy or while you’re breastfeeding. Don’t take glucomannan supplements two weeks before surgery since it can affect your blood control.
It’s also important to remember there’s no shortcut to weight loss. If you’re taking glucomannan for its weight loss benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that a supplement can’t make up for an unhealthy lifestyle and the discipline that comes with monitoring the food that goes in your body.