Glucomannan is a water-soluble polysaccharide that is considered a dietary fiber. It is a hemicellulose component in the cell walls of some plant species. Glucomannan is a food additive used as an emulsifier and thickener. It is a major source of mannan oligosaccharide (MOS) found in nature, the other being galactomannan, which is insoluble.

Products containing glucomannan, under a variety of brand names, are marketed as dietary supplements with claims they can relieve constipation and help lower cholesterol levels. Since 2010 they are legally marketed in Europe as helping with weight loss for people who are overweight and eating a diet with restricted calories, but as of 2020 there was no good evidence that glucomannan helped weight loss.

Supplements containing glucomannans pose a risk for choking and bowel obstruction if they are not taken with sufficient water. Other adverse effects include diarrhea, belching, and bloating; in one study people taking glucomannans had higher triglyceride levels.

Glucomannans are also used to supplement animal feed for farmed animals, to help the animals gain weight more quickly.


Glucomannan is mainly a straight-chain polymer, with a small amount of branching. The component sugars are β-(1→4)-linked D-mannose and D-glucose in a ratio of 1.6:1. The degree of branching is about 8% through β-(1→6)-glucosyl linkages.
Glucomannan with α-(1→6)-linked galactose units in side branches is called galactoglucomannan.

Biological function

In the yeast cell wall, mannan oligosaccharides are present in complex molecules that are linked to the protein moiety. There are two main locations of mannan oligosaccharides in the surface area of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell wall.

They can be attached to the cell wall proteins as part of –O and –N glycosyl groups and also constitute elements of large α-D-mannanose polysaccharides (α-D-Mannans), which are built of α-(1,2)- and α-(1,3)- D-mannose branches (from 1 to 5 rings long), which are attached to long α-(1,6)-D-mannose chains.

This specific combination of various functionalities involves mannan oligosaccharides-protein conjugates and highly hydrophilic and structurally variable ‘brush-like’ mannan oligosaccharides structures that can fit to various receptors of animal digestive tracts, and to the receptors on the surface of bacterial membranes, impacts these molecules’ bioactivity. Mannan oligosaccharides-protein conjugates are involved in interactions with the animal’s immune system and as result enhance immune system activity. They also play a role in animal antioxidant and antimutagenic defense.

Natural sources

Glucomannan comprises 40% by dry weight of the roots, or corm, of the konjac plant. Another culinary source is salep, ground from the roots of certain orchids and used in Greek and Turkish cuisine. However, these orchid species are protected in the whole EU and the trade of salep is strictly forbidden. Glucomannan is also a hemicellulose that is present in large amounts in the wood of conifers and in smaller amounts in the wood of dicotyledons.[citation needed] Glucomannan is also a constituent of bacterial, plant and yeast cell wall with differences in the branches or glycosidic linkages in the linear structure.

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