Articles

Chitosan

Introduction

Chitosan is a form of dietary fiber that is most commonly derived, interestingly enough, from the hard outer shell of such sea creatures as shrimp, crabs, squid, and other shellfish. According to research, chitosan may have the unique ability to bind to fats in the stomach, thus preventing the fats from being absorbed into the body. Scientists think this characteristic is linked to chitosan’s strong positive magnetic charge, which enables it to attract and bind to fats, which are negatively charged. Based on these findings, it’s easy to see why chitosan’s fat-scavenging ability may have applications in patients who want to lower their cholesterol.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

One to two grams at or before meals when an individual wants to prevent the absorption of fats.

Most Common Dosage

Not Applicable.

Dosage Forms

Capsules and tablets.

Interactions and Depletions

Interactions

Reported Uses

Studies suggest that chitosan may indeed reduce the body’s absorption of cholesterol in the foods we eat. (1) , (2) , (3) Reduction of cholesterol levels in these studies led to a marked reduction in the amount of fatty buildup in the circulatory system—one of the key causes of atherosclerosis. (4) Another study looked at chitosan’s effectiveness in comparison to pharmaceutical anti-cholesterol agents, as well as the natural dietary fiber found in oat gum. The results suggest that chitosan may be more effective at lowering cholesterol than oat gum. While pharmaceutical anti-cholesterol drugs may be as effective as chitosan, chitosan induced far fewer side effects. (5)

Because it can prevent the absorption of fats, chitosan has been promoted as a weight loss product. While scientists agree that the weight loss potential of chitosan is plausible, no studies have been able to support this. (6) , (7)

Researchers found that when patients suffering with ulcers were treated with chitosan, H. pylori was suppressed, bacteria of the mucosa was sanitized and ulcer scarring was accelerated, which promotes the healing process. (8)

There is another, less common use for chitosan. When used topically, it can aid healing and recovery from skin grafts. (9) , (10) Chitosan is also being placed in several medicated wound dressing products. In several tests the chitosan treated dressings performed better than other standards that it was compared against due to its ability to provide a protective barrier for the wound yet still maintain drainage and healthy air flow. (11) , (12)

Toxicities & Precautions

Introduction

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General

This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines. However, since chitosan prevents the absorption of fats, it should not be taken along with fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and it may inhibit the absorption of some medications.

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

This supplement should not be used in children unless recommended by your physician.

References

  1. View Abstract: Muzzarelli RA. Clinical and biochemical evaluation of chitosan for hypercholesterolemia and overweight control. EXS. 1999;87:293-304.
  2. View Abstract: Bokura H, et al. Chitosan decreases total cholesterol in women: a randomized, double-blind, palcebo-controlled trail. EJCN. May2003;57(5):721-725.
  3. View Abstract: Ausar SF, Morcillo M, Leon AE, et al. Improvement of HDL- and LDL-cholesterol levels in diabetic subjects by feeding bread containing chitosan. J Med Food. Dec2003;6(4):397-9.
  4. View Abstract: Ormrod DJ, Holmes CC, Miller TE. Dietary chitosan inhibits hypercholesterolaemia and atherogenesis in the apolipoprotein E-deficient mouse model of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. Jun1998;138(2):329-34.
  5. View Abstract: Jennings CD, Boleyn K, Bridges SR, et al. A comparison of the lipid-lowering and intestinal morphological effects of cholestyramine, chitosan, and oat gum in rats. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. Oct1988;189(1):13-20.
  6. View Abstract: Pittler MH, Abbot NC, Harkness EF, Ernst E. Randomized, double-blind trial of chitosan for body weight reduction. Eur J Clin Nutr. May1999;53(5):379-81.
  7. View Abstract: Egger G, Cameron-Smith D, Stanton R. The effectiveness of popular, non-prescription weight loss supplements. Med J Aust. Dec1999;171(11-12):604-8.
  8. View Abstract: Bondarenko VM, Chervinets VM, Vorob'ev AA. Role of persisting opportunistic bacteria in the pathogenesis of the gastric and duodenum ulcer. Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol. Jul2003;(4):11-7.
  9. View Abstract: Stone CA, Wright H, Clarke T, et al. Healing at skin graft donor sites dressed with chitosan. Br J Plast Surg. Oct2000;53(7):601-6.
  10. View Abstract: Azad AK, Sermsintham N, Chandrkrachang S, Stevens WF. Chitosan membrane as a wound-healing dressing: characterization and clinical application. J Biomed Mater Res. May2004;69B(2):216-22.
  11. View Abstract: Mi FL, Shyu SS, Wu YB, et al. Fabrication and characterization of a sponge-like asymmetric chitosan membrane as a wound dressing. Biomaterials. Jan2001;22(2):165-73.
  12. View Abstract: Peh K, Khan T, Ch'ng H. Mechanical, bioadhesive strength and biological evaluations of chitosan films for wound dressing. J Pharm Pharm Sci. Sep2000;3(3):303-11.