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Benefits and Side Effects Glucomannan (Konjac Root)

Glucomannan, available as a dietary supplement, is extracted from the root of the konjac plant. Studies suggest that this supplement is an effective appetite suppressant, which may help in weight loss and reducing obesity.
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Benefits and side effects Glucomannan (Konjac Root)
Did You Know?
In Japan, glucomannan is called the 'broom of the intestines" as it helps to get rid of toxic matter and promotes bowel health.
Obtained from the root of konjac plant, glucomannan is a form of sugar that has a long history of medicinal use in Asian countries like China and Japan. It is a water-soluble polysaccharide―a simple sugar―and regarded as a dietary fiber. The konjac plant contains around 40% of glucomannan by weight. Touted to have varied health benefits, glucomannan is sold as a dietary supplement. It is available in the form of tablets, capsules, and powder at health-food stores. It can also be purchased online.

Shirataki noodles is a popular glucomannan-enriched product, often consumed to lose weight and keep cholesterol in check. Some of the possible benefits of glucomannan are given below.

Benefits

Controls Blood Sugar
Glucomannan may help in treating type 2 diabetes―a condition that is marked by abnormally high blood sugar. Quite a few small studies indicate that this sugar can help in keeping the blood sugar in balance as well as reduce dependence on prescription medicines.

• Research
A study published in Diabetes Care, in 2000, showed that eating glucomannan-containing products can also assist in controlling blood sugar. In the study, 11 diabetics were randomly asked to eat either glucomannan-fortified biscuits or biscuits containing wheat bran fiber, daily, for a period of 3 weeks. It was observed that glucomannan-containing biscuits were better at controlling blood sugar and reducing cholesterol.

A 2003 study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition observed that 22 diabetics when treated with glucomannan supplements for a period of 4 weeks did not show a rise in blood sugar levels. Moreover, patients suffering from high cholesterol showed a decline in 'bad' LDL cholesterol, despite not taking any cholesterol medication.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

It has been proven that dietary fiber can help reduce high cholesterol levels. Considering this fact, konjac root being an excellent source of fiber may contribute in lowering cholesterol. It may inhibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine to keep cholesterol levels under control.

• Research
A 2008 report released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that glucomannan may contribute in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. The report examined 14 clinical trials that were conducted to investigate the effects of glucomannan on cholesterol. The investigation concluded that glucomannan may assist in reducing total cholesterol and bad cholesterol. It was also noted that glucomannan seemed to lower triglycerides (type of fat) and reduce body weight. The report also concluded that glucomannan does not appear to have any positive impact on 'good' cholesterol or blood pressure. Another study showed that chitosan (dietary supplement) in combination with glucomannan may help to decrease serum cholesterol levels.

Alleviates Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Preliminary studies on animals have shown that glucomannan may assist in treating RA effectively. The study conducted on rats, and reported in 2008 in Neuroendocrinology Letters, observed that anti-inflammatory compounds in glucomannan could be responsible for alleviating symptoms of RA.

Reduces Weight

The supplement tends to curb hunger, which may help to reduce weight. It acts like an appetite suppressant, which decreases calorie intake, and subsequently, the weight. This fiber-rich supplement keeps the stomach fuller for longer amount of time, which keeps hunger pangs at bay.

• Research
A 2007 study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition, observed that subjects who were treated with a combination glucomannan and psyllium husk for a period of 16 weeks showed a drop of 10 pounds as opposed to a placebo group, who lost only around 1.7 pounds. In another study, obese participants taking 1 g of glucomannan supplement prior to every meal without following any specific diet or exercise routine, lost around 2.5 kg.

Relieves Constipation

As glucomannan is a good source of soluble fiber, it may help in the treatment of constipation. Fiber adds bulk to your stools, which speeds up the time required to get rid of waste. So, taking these supplements may help to pass fecal matter easily. Studies have also shown that the supplement reduces the fecal transit time, which may contribute in relieving constipation.

• Research
In a 2004 study, reported in Pediatrics, found that this supplement was helpful in the treatment of constipation in children. In the study, 46 children suffering from chronic constipation were put on either glucomannan or a placebo for a period of 4 weeks. After the completion of the study, it was noticed that taking glucomannan led to greater improvement in symptoms of constipation.

Other Uses

Traditionally in China, konjac extract powder has been used in the treatment of asthma, cough, breast pain, hernia, burns, and even skin problems. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports that in certain Asian cultures konjac powder is being used for culinary purposes for more than 2,000 years. As an additive, konjac may be added in canned drinks and nutrition powder drinks. It is used as thickening agent and often added in gravies, sauces, smoothies, and milkshakes.

Side Effects

There are no studies to evaluate the effects of long term usage of glucomannan. However, there is some data to suggest that the supplement may cause few bothersome side effects such as abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and indigestion. Also, its ability to reduce fecal transit time and speed up bowel movement can cause diarrhea. How safe the supplement is during pregnancy or in breast-feeding mothers is also not studied yet; hence, should not be taken during this stage of life.

Caution

Glucomannan is a dietary supplement and hasn't received any FDA approval for the treatment of any medical condition. Also, there are no large-scale studies to confirm the efficacy of the supplement. So contact your doctor before taking this supplement.
Taking glucomannan-fortified foods or supplements in the form of capsules and powder is likely to be safe. However, one should stay away from tablets that contain glucomannan as they tend to expand when taken along with water, which may block the throat and intestines.
As far as drug interactions are concerned, taking diabetic medication in conjunction with glucomannan supplements may decrease blood sugar levels to lower than normal, which can be a cause for concern.
Simply put, there is a risk of hypoglycemia when your dose of prescription medication is complemented with glucomannan supplements. So, if you are planning to use this supplement to control diabetes, consultation with your health care provider is a must.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.
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Published: June 23, 2014
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