Every day there seems to be yet another “breakthrough” on weight loss, and the headlines start hawking the next “fat burning miracle.” If you are a regular reader of my blogs, then you know that I make it my business to check on these claims, and I usually find few of them hold water, let alone can walk on it!
So when I heard that even Doctor Oz was claiming that glucomannan is “one of the best ways to control your hunger,” and has called it “nature’s skinny sponge” — it was time to get out the old magnifying glass and take a closer look.
Glucomannan is a fiber supplement derived from konjac plants. As with many “recently discovered” weight-loss supplements, it has actually been used for centuries by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an herbal treatment for various conditions, including asthma, respiratory distress, cold, flu and other common health problems.
It is also a well-known starch in Asian cuisine, and is often used as a thickening agent in recipes, and to make certain kinds of noodles. When you read thickening agent think soluble fiber, as in “sponge” or water absorption. In theory that is how glucomannan is supposed to work for weight loss. As Dr. Oz puts it, “When consumed, glucomannan “sponges” up water in the digestive tract, reducing the absorption of carbs and cholesterol and thus supporting weight loss.” In other words, glucomannan creates a sense of fullness by absorbing water and expanding to form a bulky fiber in your stomach. This bulky fiber leaves the body in the conventional way shall we say, effectively giving you a good colon cleanse in the process. In fact, the Japanese word for glucomannan literally means, “broom of the intestines.”
But does it work? Well, there are studies that back up the claims. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a University of Connecticut “meta-analysis” of 14 studies, involving over-the-counter supplements and various products such as biscuits, noodles, and energy bars made with glucomannan, found the fiber did seem to help lower bad cholesterol, keep blood glucose under control and may have a “mild” effect on body weight.
In another study, this one in 2017 published in the British Journal of Nutrition, participants taking a glucomannan and psyllium husk combination supplement lost approximately 10 pounds in 16 weeks compared to 1.7 pounds lost in the placebo group.
How to Use Glucomannan
Glucomannan is available in several different forms. It is most easily and commonly taken as a supplement in pill or capsule from. It is also available as a powder that can be mixed into drinks or smoothies. Many like to use it in smoothies as it makes the drinks thicker and more satisfying. It also is made into a kind of rubbery fishy tasting noodle called shirataki noodles, available in Asian Markets and health food stores, but as you can deduce, these are a bit of an acquired taste. You can also find it in “gummy” candies, and chews. In whatever form you choose, if you are using glucomannan as an appetite suppressant, take it about 15 minutes before your meal.
Who Should Use It?
Anyone struggling with weight-loss, looking to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, or is just looking for a good “cleanse” can benefit from using glucomannan.
As a natural product and a food ingredient, glucomannan powder and capsules are considered “likely safe” to use as an appetite suppressant. But it is very important that you make sure to drink enough water while using it. Drink at least 8 ounces of water for every gram of glucomannan you use.
As mentioned above, glucomannan is generally considered safe, however, because of its water absorbing qualities if you do not drink enough water while using it, problems can occur. The soluble fiber can literally gum up your digestive system, causing intestinal blockages. Rare instances of the powder causing choking by blocking your throat have been reported. Users of glucomannan have also reported other uncomfortable side effects such as gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
The Bottom Line
Soluble fiber in general is well known to be good for you. For its cleansing properties alone and because it does give you a feeling of fullness, glucomannan is a worthy supplement for appetite control and general health.