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Konjac

Apr 20, 2018


History and Origin

Konjac is regularly mentioned in historical Chinese treatises and histories, both as a medicine and, particularly in times of famine, as a food. The earliest known use of konjac as a medicinal herb dates back to the Han Dynasty in China, some two thousand years ago, where it was recommended as a treatment for asthma, infection, cough and skin disorders. Its use continued through subsequent dynasties and has been essentially uninterrupted through the present day.

Konjac, in both flour and jelly form, has a long culinary history in China and Japan. In Chinas Sichuan province, the jelly is used as a tofu substitute and called konjac tofu.In Japan, where it is called konyaku konjac flour is mixed with water and limewater and boiled. Once it solidifies, it can be cut into various shapes. Cut into thin wafers, it can take the place of tofu or thinly sliced raw fish. It is perhaps best known, however, when cut into strips and takes the place of noodles in several stew-like dishes, where it is appreciated for its unique texture. Konjac itself has little or no taste.

Western interest in konjac and glucomannan has grown over the past two decades as the health benefits of dietary fiber have become better understood. Research has focused on its potential for controlling cholesterol and blood glucose, as an aid to losing weight and as a general benefit to digestive health. Results of those studies have been promising. The broader therapeutic claims of traditional Chinese medicine have not been subjected to the same scrutiny and remain unproven.

Uses and Benefits of Konjac

Today, konjac is used for two distinct but related purposes: losing weight and supplementing dietary fiber. Both uses find support in the medical literature, but konjac has also been the subject of unproven claims that have resulted in government intervention.

Weight Loss

The efficacy of konjac for weight loss relies on its ability to absorb up to twenty times its own weight in water. The glucomannan expands after ingestion, and this tends to promote a feeling of fullness as it travels through the digestive tract. To achieve this result, konjac is generally taken with water before meals. An alternative, if less popular, approach is to sprinkle granules of glucomannan directly on food.

Recommended doses for weight loss purposes range from one to four grams of glucomannan taken with eight ounces of water one hour before each meal.

Fiber Supplementation

The American Dietary Association recommends that adults should consume at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. The typical American diet provides between 12 and 18 grams. While oat bran, at 14% soluble fiber content, offers the most concentrated sources of soluble fiber among those catalogued by the ADA, glucomannan comprises at least 40% of konjac by dry weight, making konjac the richest source of soluble fiber in nature.

Clinical studies specific to glucomannan supplementation have shown positive results in the treatment of a number of conditions, including:

Constipation

Soluble fiber absorbs water, softens digestive contents and increases stool volume.

Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia

Glucomannan attracts water in the digestive system and becomes a gel, slowing digestive processes and trapping carbohydrates so that blood sugar levels are stabilized.

Diabetes

One benefit of the ability to regulate blood sugar levels is seen in Type 2 Diabetes, where glucomannan has shown potential to reduce blood glucose, insulin and serum lipid levels after meals, an effect that seems to be enhanced by glucomannans relatively high viscosity compared to other soluble fibers.

High Cholesterol

By attaching itself to bile acids in the digestive system and moving them out of the body, glucomannan supplements can help lower cholesterol and reduce the amount of fat present in the blood.

High Blood Pressure

As a corollary to glucomannans beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, one study has demonstrated a decrease in systolic blood pressure in healthy men after a four week course of glucomannan supplements.

Konjac extract..jpg

Konjac..jpg

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