Isn’t it great when a naturally occurring ingredient can help with weight loss?
One such ingredient that’s attracted a lot of attention in recent years is konjac fibre.
This article introduces konjac, and after reading you’ll have an understanding of what it is, how it works, and the ways it can help you lose weight.
What is konjac fibre?
It’s a soluble fibre found in the roots of the konjac plant, an Asian plant also known as elephant yam. The technical name for the supplement is glucomannan, but konjac fibre rolls off the tongue better. Konjac root is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, taken as a supplement, or used in herbal preparations.
It is extremely dense and when mixed with water forms a gel-like substance, which makes it very effective as a thickening agent or filler.
Konjac fibre can be used as an emulsifier (to bind liquids together that would usually separate), a texturizer (a hair product), or gelatin substitute in cooking (to thicken liquids). It is quite versatile, and can be found in products such as flours, pasta (particularly shirataki noodles), and drink mixes.
As a supplement, konjac fibre can aid in your weight loss efforts, something that has been approved by the EFSA. It has also been widely studied for its potential in helping prevent other chronic health conditions and illnesses.
How does konjac root help you lose weight?
Digestive enzymes found in the human gastrointestinal tract cannot break down konjac fibre, because of its complex molecular structure. This means that the ingredient reaches the intestines mostly intact, allowing it to absorb massive volumes of water (up to 50 times its own weight). The absorption leads to expansion, which promotes feelings of fullness, and delays the emptying of the stomach. Each of these factors plays a major role in supporting weight loss.
Of course, these effects are not completely unique to konjac fibre, as all types of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre have been shown to help reduce food intake and lower body weight.
In fact, a meta-analysis of all existing studies focused on weight loss and dietary fibre intake found that by increasing daily fibre intake by 14 g or more, obese people could consume 18 percent fewer calories, and lose an average of 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) over a period of 4 months as a result.
Dietary fibres like konjac root may also help boost intestinal health by rebuilding the supply of beneficial bacteria. When fibre reaches the fermentation stage of digestion, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate are formed. It is these SCFAs that are thought to inhibit body fat gain by increasing resting energy expenditure and promoting obesity-fighting intestinal bacteria.
Konjac root weight loss studies
Since it has been suggested that konjac fibre absorbs the highest quantity of water when compared with other types of soluble dietary fibre, it follows that konjac fibre could be the most effective type of fibre to use in your weight loss efforts.
As you can imagine, konjac root has been well-researched by scientists for its effect on body composition.
Here are some of the research findings:
- One Norwegian study of 176 overweight participants found that a 1200-calorie diet and fibre supplementation using Glucomannan yielded more weight loss during a 5-week trial than a 1200-calorie diet supplemented with another type of fibre (guar gum or alginate), or the 1200-calorie diet alone.
- A similar, smaller study noted the same conclusion as above, this time over a period of 60 days.
- A double-blind, randomized trial using konjac root followed 20 obese women for a period of 8 weeks, with strict instructions to continue their usual diet and exercise routine. Supplementation of 1 gram of konjac root was provided three times per day, one hour prior to each meal. By the end of eight weeks, participants taking supplemental konjac root lost a moderate amount of weight, while the average participant receiving the placebo actually gained weight.
One Norwegian study of 176 overweight participants found that a 1200-calorie diet and fibre supplementation using Glucomannan yielded more weight loss during a 5-week trial than a 1200-calorie diet supplemented with another type of fibre (guar gum or alginate), or the 1200-calorie diet alone.
What is the ideal konjac dose for weight loss results?
Konjac fibre has been legally approved by the European Foods Standard Agency to work for weight loss in doses of 3 grams per day. This amount has been found to be effective.
Most dosages in studies have ranged from 3 to 5 grams daily, in divided doses, but some trials have found success with even lower dosages.
For best results, it is recommended to take a konjac root supplement three times per day; with, or just prior to meals. If taken at another time, supplementation will likely not aid in weight loss.
If you choose to take this supplement prior to meals, 15 minutes to 1 hour before ingesting food is a good guideline to follow. Make sure to take konjac fibre with at least one glass of water as it can cause issues for those that find swallowing difficult
What weight loss results can you expect from konjac root?
Naturally, weight loss results will vary depending on your personal characteristics, such as age and starting weight, it is also important to note that Konjac fibre only promotes weight loss when used alongside an energy-restricted diet.
Konjac fibre has shown promise to provide moderate weight loss if taken as recommended:
- One study found that konjac fibre supplementation provided weight loss in the range of 2.4 to 6.4 kg (5.3 to 14.1 lb) in overweight subjects over the course of 5 weeks.
- An 8-week clinical trial utilizing 3 g konjac root per day with no change to diet or exercise habits yielded an average of 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) weight loss among obese women, compared to a 0.7 kg (1.5 lb) gain in the control group receiving a placebo.
- A 2008 systemic review of all clinical trials studying the effects of konjac root on weight loss concluded that participants lost an average of 0.8 kg (1.8 lb) over the study period, while studies that included dietary changes yielded an average of 1.28 kg (2.8 lb) lost. Regardless of the type of intervention, obese participants lost an average of 1.3 kg (2.9 lb).
Naturally, weight loss results may vary depending on your personal characteristics such as age and starting weight.
The role of konjac root as a prebiotic
As you’ve already learned, konjac fibre functions as a prebiotic, which can help in weight loss efforts due to the actions of newly-formed short chain fatty acids.
As you’ve already learned, konjac fibre functions as a prebiotic, which can help in weight loss efforts due to the actions of newly-formed SCFAs.
Prebiotics are an ingredient that can make it to the large intestine relatively unchanged in order to undergo fermentation, ultimately helping beneficial intestinal flora to multiply and thrive. As you can see, konjac root fits this definition.
So, why is this important?
First, it’s obviously a good idea to keep your digestive health in top shape, as even the most minor case of constipation or diarrhea can ruin your day. Additionally, improving your gut health can benefit your health in several other ways you might not have considered. For example, prebiotics can help to improve immunity, reduce bloat, and help to cleanse the digestive tract.
In fact, SCFAs produced by prebiotics have benefits that go far beyond weight loss. These compounds can help to decrease the pH of your colon (making it more acidic), creating an environment in which pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria cannot survive and where beneficial bacteria are able to flourish, keeping you healthy from a variety of infectious diseases. SCFAs can also play a role in mineral absorption (most notably calcium) and water and sodium balance.
Overall, research has concluded that prebiotics can provide a variety of different health benefits. Some of these include:
- Improved nutrient absorption and bioavailability (especially calcium and magnesium).
- Prevention of diarrhea (or reduced duration) associated with infection or antibiotics (such as Clostridium difficile).
- Promotion of weight loss due to appetite reduction.
As you can see, just this one ingredient can greatly affect your overall health and well-being, especially if you are looking to improve gut health and digestion.
Additionally, improving your gut health can benefit your health in several other ways you might not have considered.
Are there any side effects of using konjac root?
For the vast majority of users, this ingredient is safe. Several studies have assessed the appropriateness of konjac fibre supplementation for adolescents and children, and it appears that it is safe for younger people when taken under supervision.
There is a small choking risk for people who find it particularly difficult to swallow. Drinking one or two glasses of water will ensure that konjac reaches the stomach safely.
Mixing konjac fibre into a glass of water or juice will also make sure the product does its job properly.
Fibre supplementation of any type is not recommended for people who have disorders affecting their esophagus, as obstruction may occur and cause choking or breathing difficulty.
Additionally, if your current fibre intake is very low, you may want to slowly increase dietary fibre prior to starting konjac fibre supplementation in order to avoid digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
Since soluble fibre slows absorption of food, the same is true for fat-soluble vitamins and medications taken by mouth.
If you are currently taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications and wish to begin konjac fibre supplementation, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor about adjusting the timing of your medications.
Like any type of fibre, konjac fibre can also affect blood glucose levels, so if you are diabetic, keeping track of your blood glucose measurements is key to avoid any unwanted complications. You may need to adjust medication or insulin dosages accordingly once you start supplementing with konjac root.
If you’re looking to improve your health, there are a few ways that konjac fibre can help. When it comes to weight loss, konjac fibre can help you reduce calorie consumption, without the feeling of hunger common felt by dieters.
If you currently have a low dietary fibre intake, it is best to introduce konjac fibre to your diet slowly and gradually. Quickly increasing your fibre intake can cause uncomfortable side effects. Over time, your digestive system will become accustomed to increased fibre intake and be better equipped to handle the fibre more effectively.
Konjac fibre is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, however, the evidence behind this ingredient is solid, which is why it has been approved for weight loss by the European Food Standards Agency. When taken regularly at a recommended dosage of 3 grams per day in divided doses with meals, konjac fibre may help you lose more weight than with dietary changes alone.
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- Joyce K. Keithley. Safety and Efficacy of Glucomannan for Weight Loss in Overweight and Moderately Obese Adults (2013). Link.
- Glucomannan (2015). Link.
- Richard Glickman-Simon, MD. Glucomannan (2015). Link.
- Nancy C. Howarth. Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation (2001). Link.
- Julia Wong. Colonic Health: Fermentation and Short Chain Fatty Acids (2006). Link.
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