| Therapeutic Dosages
| Therapeutic Uses
| What Is the Scientific Evidence for Glucomannan?
| Safety Issues
Glucomannan is a dietary fiber derived from the tubers of
. Konjac flour (made from these tubers) is used to make a jelly called konyaku, a common food product in Japan.
Fiber-containing foods, such as oats, are known to help reduce cholesterol and improve constipation and may also help regulate blood sugar and assist in weight reduction by creating a feeling of fullness. However, many people have a hard time consuming enough fiber from food, so turn to fiber supplements, such as guar gum and pectin, to help fulfill their daily requirements. Glucomannan offers one advantage over these forms of fiber: much smaller doses are necessary. When glucomannan is placed in water, it can swell up to 17 times its original volume. These qualities make it potentially quite convenient as a fiber supplement.
Although glucomannan can be derived from other sources such as yeast, most studies have used glucomannan purified from the konjac root.
Most of the studies described here used 3 to 5 g per day in divided doses before meals. However, there are concerns regarding the form of glucomannan used (see
studies have found glucomannan to be effective for improving the
Glucomannan appears to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol and, according to some studies, increase HDL ("good") cholesterol. In addition, it may improve
By expanding in the stomach, glucomannan might be useful for people trying to lose weight. Many people report a feeling of fullness after taking glucomannan, and some studies found a significant
among those taking glucomannan compared to those on
However, not all studies of glucomannan for weight loss have had positive results.
Glucomannan may also help the body to regulate blood sugar levels, and therefore could be helpful in treating
Additionally, glucomannan might be helpful for individuals who experience episodes of low blood sugar following stomach surgery.
Like other dietary fibers, glucomannan may help treat
is a state in which levels of thyroid hormone are too high. A preliminary trial found some evidence that when glucomannan is added to standard treatment, normal thyroid hormone levels are restored more rapidly.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Glucomannan?
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
, 63 people were given either 3.9 g per day of glucomannan or placebo for 4 weeks and then switched to the other treatment.
While taking glucomannan, participants showed significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, as compared to placebo. In addition, their systolic blood pressure (the upper number in the blood pressure reading) was also reduced. However, there was no significant increase in HDL cholesterol and no improvement in the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol.
Participants in another study were given either 3 g per day of glucomannan or placebo over an 8-week period.
The glucomannan group showed improvements in total and HDL cholesterol as well as a reduction in systolic blood pressure. Those taking glucomannan also lost weight, whereas the placebo group gained weight over the length of the trial.
Several other controlled studies have found similar results.
And, in a mathematical review combining the results of 14 studies, glucomannan significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels.
A few small double-blind studies suggest that glucomannan may be helpful for people trying to lose weight; however, in other studies, no such benefit was seen.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 20 women who were more than 20% over their ideal weight found glucomannan to be more effective than placebo at promoting weight loss.
All participants were instructed not to change their eating or exercise habits while on the treatment. Those in the treatment group took 1 g of glucomannan 3 times a day for 8 weeks and lost an average of 5.5 pounds during that period; in comparison, those in the placebo group gained an average of 1.5 pounds, a significant difference. The glucomannan group also had a reduction of total and LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels.
Benefits were also seen in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 28 overweight people who had just experienced a heart attack.
However, another double-blind trial of 60 obese children did not find a significant difference in weight loss between the glucomannan and the placebo groups.
In this study, the children received either 1 g of glucomannan or placebo twice a day for 8 weeks.
A study of individuals with diabetes tested the effectiveness of glucomannan fiber-enriched biscuits against wheat bran biscuits for blood sugar control.
While using the glucomannan biscuits, people experienced a significant improvement in glucose control as compared to the wheat bran biscuits.
Other studies have also found evidence that glucomannan can improve blood sugar control.
In Japan, food products containing glucomannan have a long history of use and are believed to be safe. However, there are some concerns about taking glucomannan as a supplement.
Some people taking glucomannan complain of excess gas, stomach distension, or mild diarrhea. These symptoms usually abate within a couple of days of treatment or with a reduction of the dosage.
In a few cases, glucomannan tablets have caused obstruction of the esophagus when they expanded before reaching the stomach.
In response to these reports, tablets of this type have been banned. Capsules, however, do not seem to pose the same risk because their casing prevents the glucomannan from contacting water until it reaches the stomach. The dramatic expansion of glucomannan has also raised some concerns that it could cause an obstruction in the intestines; nonetheless, as of yet, there have been no reports of this actually happening.
One option to offset all expansion risk is to mix glucomannan powder in water so that it expands before it is ingested; however, this strategy defeats the convenience of this form of fiber.