April 21, 2013

No0odle - Miracle weight loss product or just silly?

No calorie foods are gaining popularity.  Someone forwarded me a Groupon for a product entertainingly called: No0odle and asked “what is this?” 

How can something that we associate with carbohydrates and calories contain zero calories?   The product is 100% fiber, which is healthy for the digestive tract for because we cannot digest it or absorb calories from it.  You will likely hear from many sources that to find the actual carbohydrates in a product, you need to subtract the fiber grams from the total carbohydrate to extract the actual carb intake you will get.  This is because the body does absorb the calories from fiber and it doesn’t raise blood sugar like a digestible carb would.  This generally seems too complicated for me to launch into with most of my patients and so I keep it simple in my practice; I focus on “total carbohydrates” without all the subtraction.  

No0odle is made out of glucomann flour from the Konjac plant in Asia.  The flour is a fiber that can be used to thicken or gel foods when added (think corn-starch).   It is also used to treat constipation (like other fibers) because it goes undigested and works its way through the digestive tract absorbing water and creating bulk.  This last point makes me worried about anyone without constipation who consumes the product….

This no-calorie flour is often sold as a dietary supplement in powder form and there are some contraindications where this concentrated form could cause blockages in the intestinal tract.  Again, remember to always purchase nutritional supplements from a very legitimate source as they are not regulated by the FDA in this country.  You’re going to largely see the product associated with weight management (it has 0 digestible calories) and diabetes (it tastes and feels like a carbohydrate, but won’t raise your blood sugar). 

Is it effective?  In an old study (1983), with a small sample size of 20 obese patients, there was significant weight loss (5.5 pounds) in an 8 week period with no reported adverse side-effects (1).  Slightly newer (2003), The American Diabetes Association reported results from a small (11 person) study about glucomannan and coronary heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes where they found that people consuming the product significantly reduced recordable blood levels of fructosamine, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure.  They didn’t get as significant of results from other markers including body weight (2).  When comparing suggestions for dosing, the most common recommendation effective to treat diabetes or lower high cholesterol is about 4 to 11 grams of glucomannan per day.  Recommendations for weight loss are generally 1-5 grams per day.  Of course, the use of this product is almost always accompanied by a small line at the end of the advertisement:  “when accompanied by a reduced calorie diet and exercise”.  Duh. 

      1.  Walsh DE, Yaghoubian V, Behforooz A.  Effect of Glucomannan on Obese Patients:  A Clinical Study.  Int J Obesity.  1984, 8:289-293.
      2.  Vuksan et al.  Konjac-mannnan (glucomannan) improves glycemia and other associated risk factors for coronary heart disease in type 2 diabetes.  A randomized controlled metabolic trial.  Diabetes Care. 1999, 22:913–919). 

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