Konjac, a perennial herbaceous plant, is widely distributed in humid monsoon climate regions such as the southeastern mountains, Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, and the surrounding mountains of the Sichuan Basin in China. The tubers of konjac are mostly flattened and spherical, with varying sizes due to different growth periods and varieties, typically harvested within 3 to 5 years. The plant reaches a height of 40-70 cm, prefers shade, has thick leaf stalks, and produces purple flowers with a distinctive scent, although the plant itself is not edible. China boasts 26 konjac varieties, including 14 unique ones, with Flower Konjac and White Konjac being the most widely cultivated and distributed, holding significant research value. Konjac's main components include water, glucomannan polysaccharides, starch, cellulose and hemicellulose, protein, amino acids, alkaloids, and over 20 inorganic elements. Among these, glucomannan polysaccharides constitute a high percentage, ranging from 50% to 60% in dried konjac slices.
1. Application of Glucomannan Polysaccharides in Food Processing:
In food processing, konjac glucomannan polysaccharides serve as gelatinous enhancers. Researchers have incorporated glucomannan polysaccharides into traditional foods such as noodles and steamed buns, preserving the traditional flavors while imparting certain health benefits. Additionally, konjac glucomannan polysaccharides are utilized in the production of gelled foods like jelly, pudding, and freeze-suckable items. In the realm of health foods, glucomannan polysaccharides, with their high nutritional value, offer a sense of satiety, reducing and delaying glucose absorption, making them ideal for dietary supplements. Recognized for their effects on cholesterol metabolism, weight loss, constipation, and diabetes, konjac glucomannan polysaccharides find applications in yogurt, gummy candies, ice cream additives, canned goods, and imitation foods. Recent advancements include the production of konjac glucomannan polysaccharide micro-powders, konjac noodles, and konjac jelly with purity exceeding 90%, receiving acclaim in the market.
2. Industrial Applications of Glucomannan Polysaccharides:
Due to its film-forming properties, konjac glucomannan polysaccharides are employed in environmental protection, manufacturing preservative films and biodegradable films to replace conventional packaging materials. Its adhesive and biodegradable nature is harnessed in the production of wastewater treatment agents. Additionally, konjac glucomannan polysaccharides can serve as adhesives in the production of cotton yarn sizing, post-treatment softeners for paste, silk printing and dyeing, substrates for various hair care products, cosmetics, and skincare products, construction coatings, coagulants for wastewater treatment, rapid flocculants for heavy metal ions, adhesives for degradable plastics and ceramics, microcapsule production, papermaking, and as carriers for immobilized enzymes.
3. Medical Applications of Glucomannan Polysaccharides:
As a low-calorie chemical substance that is not digested by digestive enzymes in the intestines, glucomannan polysaccharides generate a feeling of fullness after consumption, slowing down or reducing glucose absorption, leading to a decrease in blood sugar levels and exhibiting preventive effects against diabetes. Glucomannan polysaccharides enhance both specific and non-specific immune functions, regulating immune activity and demonstrating certain preventive effects against colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and other cancers. Its use has shown therapeutic effects for patients with colorectal cancer and breast cancer, potentially due to the dilution of carcinogenic concentrations and the acceleration of their excretion. Simultaneously, changes in intestinal bacteria increase the number of anaerobic bacteria, exerting certain anti-tumor effects.
Glucomannan polysaccharides, derived from konjac tubers, are a natural neutral polysaccharide with high dietary, health, and medicinal value. As consumer preferences shift towards healthier choices, the future prospects for glucomannan polysaccharides in the market appear promising. China, as the world's largest producer of konjac, provides ample raw materials for the development of the glucomannan polysaccharide industry. With advancements in related production technologies, there is vast potential for the development of the glucomannan polysaccharide industry in China.
Reference: "Physical and Chemical Properties and Application Prospects of Konjac Glucomannan Polysaccharides" by Zhang Ying et al.
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