This natural fiber may help discourage obesity and support a healthy heart
(NaturalHealth365) Upon hearing the word “pandemic,” many people will automatically and understandably think of the COVID-19 virus. But there is another widespread health crisis – largely ignored by mainstream media outlets, and it has nothing to do with a pathogen. According to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, close to 42 percent of Americans are obese – putting them at heightened risk for potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Now, a new study shows that glucomannan, a soluble fiber derived from the roots of the elephant yam (also called konjac), may reduce waist circumference and hunger levels in overweight individuals. In addition, earlier studies have shown that glucomannan may promote weight loss. Of course, no single nutrient is a “silver bullet” against obesity. However, supplementing with glucomannan can promote a healthy weight – and help to set the stage for future success. Let’s see how this natural fiber can promote health and support a weight loss journey.
Glucomannan can help reduce appetite
Glucomannan, which is botanically known as Amorphophallus konjac, works in a simple but effective way. Dissolving quickly in the digestive system, glucomannan absorbs water and becomes a thick, viscous gel that expands throughout the intestinal tract. This helps to delay stomach emptying and creates a sensation of satiety or fullness, which in turn can reduce appetite, quell food cravings, and discourage overeating. In addition, glucomannan helps to reduce the absorption of fat – and is low in calories, despite its “filling” effects. It can also benefit the metabolism by easing constipation and promoting the efficient elimination of toxins and waste.
In a clinical trial published in 2005 in Medical Science Monitor, healthy but overweight participants were given either glucomannan or placebo before meals. After five weeks, researchers found that the glucomannan group lost substantially more weight than those in the placebo group. These earlier findings have since been reinforced by a recent review published in Obesity Medicine, in which the authors reported that glucomannan supplementation resulted in “significant” weight reductions in overweight and obese adults. Unsurprisingly, the team added that glucomannan appears to be most effective when used in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes.
This would also be a good time to say that eating more fiber – in general – is a very smart way to avoid unwanted weight gain. Eating a diet rich in fiber will certainly reduce your cravings for more food than you need. And, one of the best ways to consume enough fiber is to eat lots of organic fruits and vegetables, on a regular basis.
Glucomannan may help guard against heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Not only does glucomannan discourage obesity – a primary risk factor for heart disease – but it helps support cardiovascular health in a variety of other ways. According to a systematic review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, glucomannan has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by up to 16 mg/dL and to reduce triglycerides, or fats in the blood, by 11 mg/DL.
By increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering fasting blood sugar, this versatile fiber may help ward off type 2 diabetes. (Quite a list of cardiovascular and metabolic accomplishments for a simple dietary fiber!) In fact, glucomannan has been found to be so beneficial that some researchers have advised it as an additional therapy for patients with diabetes and high cholesterol.
Change gut bacteria for the better with prebiotic fiber
In addition to its other virtues, glucomannan is also a prebiotic food. This means that it supplies direct nourishment for “friendly” bacteria in the gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms in the digestive tract. Scientists have found that the gut microbiome is more important to health than previously thought, as it regulates immune function, metabolism, and even mood. Disruptions in the balance between “friendly” and “unfriendly” bacteria in the microbiome (also known as dysbiosis) are associated with a host of health problems, including “leaky gut,” autoimmune problems, depression, and – you guessed it – obesity.
In an influential review published in Gut Microbes, the authors concluded that prebiotic fiber increased populations of Firmicutes bacteria while decreasing populations of Bacteroides bacteria – a desirable ratio that can improve risk factors for obesity and metabolic syndrome. The bottom line? Prebiotic fibers are believed to be a safe and cost-effective means of modulating gut bacteria – and supporting overall health.
Supplementing? Don’t forget the water
If you’re looking to add glucomannan to your diet, your best bet is to seek out shirataki noodles, in which glucomannan is a primary ingredient. Many nutritionists say that replacing carb-heavy pastas and noodles with shirataki can be a wise move.
Glucomannan is also available as a supplement in powders, capsules, and tablets. Use a high-quality product from a reputable vendor. For weight loss benefits to occur, glucomannan should be taken 15 minutes to an hour before meals. And, to avoid the risk of esophageal or intestinal obstructions, glucomannan must be taken with at least eight ounces – or more – of water. You should also take particular care to stay well-hydrated when taking glucomannan.
Holistic healthcare providers typically advise amounts of one or two grams of glucomannan taken three times a day, but check first with your own integrative doctor, especially if you take medication for cholesterol or diabetes.
When used appropriately, glucomannan can lead to modest weight loss while offering gifts to metabolic and digestive health. In other words, this beneficial nutrient can represent an option for you on your road to better health. But, of course, there is no substitute for a healthy, organic diet that avoids highly-processed (sugary) foods.
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