Konjac glucomannan may improve symptoms of fatty liver, new study suggests

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Natali Mis
Getty Images / Natali Mis

Related tags Liver Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD Konjac Fatty liver Fatty liver disease

A recently published study on rats sheds light on the potential liver health benefits of glucomannans from konjac, a plant native to Asia.

When rats were fed a high-fat diet, they developed symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

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But fat accumulation was reduced among rats with these symptoms who were fed konjac glucomannans compared to rats in a control group not receiving the ingredient, reported a group of researchers from Central Queensland University and Charles Sturt University in Australia and Tianjin University of Science and Technology in China.

Hence, supplementation with konjac glucomannans “may indirectly improve liver function, as overloaded lipid droplets may promote hepatic mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress related injury,” ​the researchers wrote in their study, published​ in the January 2019 edition of the Journal of Functional Foods.

“The occurrence of [non alcoholic fatty liver syndrome] is regarded as the most common chronic liver dysbiosis with the prevalence of 30% in developed countries and nearly 10% in developing countries,” ​they reported.

According to a Harvard Health blog post, NAFLD is an umbrella term that can be divided into two groups—simple fatty liver and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

At the beginning of this year, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease returned to national attention when news outlets like CNBC​ and the Wall Street Journal​ reported on the latest pharmaceutical race to fight NASH which affects 12% or 30 million of US adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What is a konjac?

Konjac is a common food ingredient in Japan and China, used as an emulsifier four soups or gelling ingredient in fruit jellies. In the US, the konjac glucomannan-derived shirataki noodles (also called ‘Wonder Noodles’) is becoming more popular thanks to the popularity of grain-free and low-carb diets.

Glucomannans from konjac have been studied for its anti-obesity potential. Previous studies have linked it to improvements in hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. However, the ingredient’s effect on liver function, and in particular on reducing the pathology associated with high fat diet-induced liver symptoms has not been thoroughly researched, the authors argued.

Flowering konjac plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / James Steakley

In this present study, the researchers used konjac glucomannans purchased from Chinese manufacturer Qinjian Konjac Product Co. Ltd.

Study details

The researchers divided 24 Sprague-Dawley rats into four groups. Three of the groups received a high-fat diet for the first eight weeks of the trial period to establish high fat diet-induced liver dysbiosis.

For the next six weeks, two of the high-fat diet groups were also fed konjac glucomannan, either 3% or 7% of total food weight, referred to as low-dose group and high-dose group respectively. Meanwhile, the third group continued receiving a high-fat diet without any konjac glucomannan to act as a control.

At the end of the test period, the researchers collected blood samples and sacrificed the animals to remove and analyze the liver tissues.

They found that the konjac related improvements were dose dependent, meaning that the higher dose of konjac glucomannan group exhibited even less fat accumulation in the liver.

Source: Journal of Functional Foods
Published online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2018.11.006
“Konjac glucomannans attenuate diet-induced fat accumulation on livers and its regulation pathway”
Authors: Wenting Shang

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