What to look for in soluble fiber that can help patients feel full, lose weight, lower cholesterol, and maintain good bowel function.
Everyone knows that a wholesome diet and adequate exercise play pivotal roles in staying healthy as well as in helping to maintain a healthy body composition. Studies show that adding a natural health product containing soluble fiber can provide benefits, such as reducing cholesterol, acting as a prebiotic, and increasing bowel regularity.
But not all soluble fiber is created equal. Here are some things to consider when researching which soluble fiber you want to recommend to your patients: origin, purity, viscosity, and overall stability once ingested.
Soluble Fiber from Glucomannan
Amorphophallus konjac, a tuberous plant, is a rich source of the soluble fiber glucomannan. This fiber has an exceptional ability to absorb water and is one of the most viscous dietary fibers known.
However, there are many aspects of glucomannan that affect end-product quality. Things such as the species of konjac used, the harvesting location, the time of harvesting, the production process, impurities (e.g., sulfites), viscosity, the response of the viscosity to different pH levels and temperatures, and hydration speed.
Propol® A propolmannan
Shimizu Chemical Corporation processes raw Japanese A konjac species to extract glucomannan—which it has branded Propol® A propolmannan, a highly purified glucomannan. Shimizu’s three-stage purification process involves pulverizing the Amorphophallus tubers, collecting mannan-glucose particles, and polishing the particles in order to dislodge and extract noxious materials that adhere to them. Thus, Propol A is reduced to a special particle size that maximizes density while remaining in viscous form. This process yields a pure, refined, high-performance Amorphophallus propolmannan with excellent product solubility, stability, and overall functionality.
Viscosity, Stability Through the Digestive Tract
Viscosity is a physicochemical property of soluble fiber that reflects the fiber's ability to thicken as it mixes with fluid. Viscosity is a recognized factor affecting physiological responses to soluble fiber.
Propol A features an extremely high viscosity (100,000 mPa·s), which is thought to contribute to its health benefits. Furthermore, as a benefit of its unique processing, Propol A remains intact in the digestive tract—another key factor in fiber functionality. Viscosity and stability, taken together, produce a highly effective material that, once in the digestive tract, attracts water and forms a viscous gel-like substance that slows digestion, delays the emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine, slows down the influx of carbohydrates and fats into the bloodstream, binds to bile acids, and impedes dietary fat absorption.
Satiety and Weight Control
Soluble fiber is known to act as a bulking agent in the stomach and intestine, which creates the signals of fullness and causes individuals to eat less. Studies suggest that glucomannan supplementation significantly reduces weight at doses of 3 grams/day (g/d) to 4 g/d when compared to placebo. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of 3 g/d of Propol (1 g 30-60 minutes prior to each meal) combined with 300 mg/d of calcium were studied. When dosing compliant and non-complaint subgroups were analyzed, the results indicated that compliant subjects experienced a significant reduction in scale weight, body fat percentage, and fat mass without a loss of fat-free mass or bone density. In another study, the mean weight loss for the glucomannan group was 5.5 pounds in eight weeks, while subjects in the placebo group gained 1.5 pounds.
Glucose and Lipid Metabolism
Soluble fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates, which influences the release of insulin and the rate of fat storage. Glucomannan studies have not only demonstrated a positive impact on postprandial glucose handling and glucose metabolism but also on cholesterol metabolism.
Healthy Bowel Function, Prebiotic
Glucomannan not only allows more water to remain in the stool, thereby making waste softer, larger, and easier to pass through the intestines, but it is also an excellent prebiotic. In a placebo-controlled, randomized, parallel, double-blind, crossover trial, doses of 3 g/d and 4 g/d of glucomannan had a positive impact on intestinal habit (i.e., daily and weekly evacuations) and stool characteristics when compared to placebo. Glucomannan has also been shown to reduce mouth-to-cecum transit time compared to placebo. In other research, glucomannan improved defecation frequency, eased bowel movement, increased the fecal concentration of lactobacilli as well as the daily output of bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and total bacteria. In addition, fermentation of glucomannan resulted in lower fecal pH.
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