Ingredients routinely used in dietary supplements usually have their positive and negative sides. Only when the good is thought to far outweigh the bad is the ingredient considered worthwhile. And yet, even for the safest ingredients, you cannot afford to brush off the potential (albeit rare) risks.
Glucomannan is a classic case in point. It has proven effective in multiple ways including appetite suppression, weight loss, LDL cholesterol reduction and blood glucose regulation. But some have hesitated to use it following indications that it may cause stomach pain. How true is this claim of pain and what does the science say in support or otherwise?
We dug into existing studies and here’s what we found.
What is Glucomannan
Glucomannan is a dietary fiber. It comes from the konjac plant’s root. Its popularity in health supplements stems from its uncanny ability to absorb water — in amounts tens of times larger than its own weight. The resulting gel is viscous, stimulates satiety and effectively makes glucomannan a natural appetite suppressant thus facilitating weight loss. Studies hint at other benefits including cholesterol reduction, blood sugar regulation, bowel movement and overall digestive health.
Glucomannan is not a new phenomenon. The earliest known record of its medicinal application is in Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic compiled more than two millennia ago. Chinese traditional medicine held that glucomannan aided in the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions, digestive tract tumors, asthma, respiratory illnesses, breast pain and skin burns. Western societies have only hopped onto the konjac extract’s bandwagon over the last 40 or so years.
Research on Glucomannan and Stomach Pain
So does glucomannan cause stomach pain? This question is best answered through an examination of the existing research. And there is not a lot of it. Of the current clinical trials, the majority do not report any adverse reactions among participants.
extract’s impact on weight among obese subjects. The glucomannan group experienced a substantial weight reduction compared to the placebo group but did not report any side effects.
In rare instances though, glucomannan caused stomach pain or discomfort in some studies.
College of Nutrition in 2014. It was a review of nine clinical trials that sought to establish glucomannan’s efficacy in weight loss.
Researchers found that, in rare instances, glucomannan supplementation was associated with abdominal discomfort or other gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, constipation and flatulence) that are often accompanied by some degree of stomach pain.
While the nine clinical trials reviewed in this study did not form a clear black-white line of separation on adverse effects between high dose and low dose glucomannan regimens, it does strongly hint at dosage amount as being a key risk factor for stomach pain. Trials with high doses seemed more predisposed to stomach pain. The review also corroborated the 5,000 mg barrier that some experts believe is the starting point for glucomannan supplementation problems.
While the amount of glucomannan you should take depends on the specific health issue you want to address, many studies suggest the 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg band is most ideal. It provides the right balance of efficacy and safety. Either way, the research indicates you are better off not exceeding 5,000 mg per day.
Glucomannan can cause stomach pain but the risk of this happening is low. The risk does appear to be correlated to your daily take. 3,000 mg is on the borderline and will probably depend on each individual’s sensitivity. Exceeding 5,000 mg appears to greatly increase the risk of stomach pain and other signs of gastrointestinal distress.
As glucomannan has proven to have multiple health benefits, it’s best to take it with a doctor’s oversight. In case stomach pain persists, your doctor may suggest switching to a different supplement or remedy.