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You'll find claims for weight-reducing talents being made for a lot of plant-based substances, but they generally lack real evidence. Glucomannan is different. The substance which is extracted from tubers of the konjac plant actually is useful as part of a weight reduction regime. This has been confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority. But what's the whole story behind weight-reducing therapies based on glucomannan?

So what is glucomannan?

Glucomannan is derived from the tubers of the Asian konjac plant. The tubers – usually about sugarbeet size – are chopped up, dried and ground. Konjac has been grown and used in South East Asia for around 3000 years, but western researchers started to show an interest in its health benefits only in the 1980s. In Asia, glucomannan is used instead of starch to make jelly-like desserts or glass noodles. Approved in Europe as a thickening and gelling agent konjac is listed among the additives on food packaging as E 425 konjac jelly or konjac glucomannan.


Suppliers advertise glucomannan as making users feel full and satiated, so that they stop eating. It is also claimed to lower cholesterol levels and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Some people use pieces of konjac tuber as a kind of loofah to scrub their faces.

But will it help me lose weight?

Glucomannan flour consists largely of nondigestible carbohydrates, in the form of soluble fibre. The carbohydrates include glucose and mannose, both of which can bind relatively large volumes of water, so that if you take glucomannan and drink a lot of water before a meal, you'll quickly feel full, and therefore eat less. The European Food Safety Authority confirms that, "As part of a low-calorie diet, glucomannan can support weight loss". According to EU law, this finding allows suppliers to make this health claim for their product, provided that the user consumes three grams a day spread over three meals.


A survey carried out by the German consumer organisation, Stiftung Warentest, came to the conclusion that anyone taking appetite suppressant capsules containing glucomannan should not be expecting wonders. Glucomannan is also not recommended for long-term use because people simply get used to the feeling of fullness rather than changing their eating patterns – which is absolutely essential if they are going to maintain their new lower weight once the intense diet phase is over. Nonetheless, it's worth trying glucomannan at the start of a diet to speed up weight loss and boost motivation.

How to buy glucomannan?

Glucomannan is on sale on the internet, in pharmacies and drugstores, usually in the form of powders or capsules, some certified organic. The powders can be mixed in with the food and the capsules swallowed with a large glass of water. Prices vary widely: a jar of 180 capsules can cost around 20 euros, but also substantially more. It's very important to remember that glucomannan must always be taken together with a lot of fluid. Because it absorbs water rapidly, glucomannan powder or tablets in particular could get stuck in your throat with the risk of suffocation. It's not often that you find glucomannan used as a gelling agent in foods, but one typical use is in glass noodles like shirataki. You'll find these in well-stocked supermarkets and in specialist shops.


Source: Stiftung Warentest