Glucomannan and Weight Loss 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
May 23, 2022

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’re probably aware of the seemingly endless array of trending health products and exercise systems and diet plans that are available. It can be overwhelming and confusing for even the most dedicated and informed person. Beyond dieting and exercise regimens, though, one of the most popular things to buy is weight loss supplements and medications that claim to help you reduce your body weight. A common example of this is glucomannan, a food additive that has more recently begun to be marketed as a dietary supplement. 

What is Glucomannan?

Glucomannan is a water-soluble polysaccharide that is naturally found in the cell walls of several different plant species. One of these species, the konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac), is a perennial native to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Glucomannan can be extracted from the root of the konjac, a bulbotuber also sometimes referred to as an elephant yam. Konjac root has numerous dietary and culinary uses, including as the primary component of the Japanese food called shirataki noodles. 

As a food additive, glucomannan can be used as either food thickener or emulsifier. The main reason for this is that even a small amount can absorb nearly 50 times its own weight in water; this makes it a bulk-forming agent that can have a positive impact on digestion and bowel motility. Moreover, because glucomannan moves through the digestive tract and into the colon essentially unchanged, it becomes highly fermented by the gut bacteria in the large intestine and contributes to overall gastrointestinal health. 

Does Glucomannan Cause Weight Loss?  

The use of glucomannan as a weight loss agent is a fairly new concept, but there is some evidence to suggest that it can play a role. Any weight loss properties that may exist are thought to be similar to other bulk-forming, fermentable fibers. Because of how much water it is capable of absorbing, glucomannan essentially expands and takes up space in the colon. In addition to displacing the energy of other less-dense food components, the gel-like bulk that forms can add to the feelings of fullness and satiety that affect appetite. 

Beyond appetite suppression, however, glucomannan has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol more specifically. It does this in part by stimulating the colon to excrete cholesterol through feces and by generally decreasing the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. There have also been some indications that the impact of glucomannan on appetite may also improve the regulation of blood sugar; this appears to be related to the viscosity of the gel that is formed when exposed to water. 

Even though some early research on the effect of glucomannan on body weight and lipid levels has been promising, much more research needs to be done. More recent studies, for instance, showed that glucomannan supplements had insignificant effects on body composition and satiety. Some of these inconsistencies may be due to the way the earlier studies were conducted; future research may provide more insight. One thing that is consistent, however, is that glucomannan appears to be broadly well-tolerated and safe for consumption.   

Additional Health Benefits of Glucomannan     

Although questions about the impact of glucomannan on weight loss are still inconclusive, there is evidence to suggest that it has other health benefits. The fiber content alone is beneficial for a variety of reasons; for instance, consuming sufficient amounts of soluble dietary fiber or fiber supplements can bring relief from everyday symptoms like diarrhea and constipation. Also, research has shown that making glucomannan a part of your diet may decrease factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease; this includes cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. 

Side Effects of Glucomannan

Because of the nature of glucomannan and its absorptive ability, dosage is typically recommended to be a maximum of a 1 gram capsule 3 times a day. Healthcare providers are also directing users to drink at least 8oz of water in order to prevent choking or blockage to the digestive tract. To date, there has been insufficient research regarding the long-term effects of glucomannan, but there have been a number of short-term side effects reported: bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, belching, and abdominal discomfort.  

Bottom Line  

Obesity continues to be a serious health concern for millions of Americans, but many weight management strategies tend to yield few results. Glucomannan does have some promise in terms of positively affecting health, but the weight loss properties of the supplement are still largely unsupported by scientific evidence. The bottom line: glucomannan supplements are likely a net positive for your health, but they probably won’t make much of a difference to your weight loss journey.    

True You Weight Loss Solutions 

If you’ve been feeling a desire to lose weight but haven’t had much success so far, you’re not alone. Both weight gain and weight loss are governed by a number of factors, including genetics, so it is a challenge for anyone to take on. It’s in this environment that companies in the weight loss industry present endless products that claim to make weight loss easier. The unfortunate truth is that there is no supplement that can cause you to lose a significant amount of weight. 

The only actual way to lose weight is for your body to be in a calorie deficit, which means expending more calories than you consume. Most diet plans attempt to achieve this deficit by asking you to force yourself to eat less food, but this path is ineffective for a lot of people. Even if you can get yourself to eat less for a while, more often than not it doesn’t last; indeed, it is common for people to lose some weight and then gain it back a few months later. The result is a pattern of yo-yo dieting that can frustrate you for years. 

At True You Weight Loss, we understand this vicious cycle and want to help you break it. We provide weight loss solutions that help you find a calorie deficit by making changes to the digestive system. In our ESG procedure, for instance, an endoscope is used to close off a section of the stomach from the inside to make it smaller. With reduced stomach volume, you won’t be able to eat as much in a single sitting; over time, new patterns of hunger and satiety will help you change your eating habits and be in a calorie deficit. Many ESG patients have been able to lose significant body weight and keep it off over the long term. 

If you’ve tried to lose weight through diet and exercise and exotic supplements but without much success, it might be time for a new approach. At True You, we are passionate about helping people find freedom from the old ways of doing things. To learn more about ESG, gastric balloons, or any of our other offerings, please contact us today to request a consultation. Our friendly and compassionate staff will be thrilled to help! 

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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