Chitosan is a polysaccharide derived from chitin, often included in dietary supplements and sports nutrition. Chitosan has a large number of positive effects on the human body.
In the digestive tract, chitosan breaks down into low molecular weight substances and is easily absorbed by the body. The opinion that chitosan includes hyaluronic acid, which is responsible for some of the positive effects of the drug, is erroneous, since they are two different substances. Once dissolved, chitosan turns into a gel, which has pronounced adsorptive properties, that is, it can absorb a variety of toxic substances, as well as reduce the absorption of fats from the digestive tract. Chitosan has also been found to have anti-tumor effects.
Chitosan is produced by deacetylation (removal of the acyl group) of chitin. The latter is a structural element of insect and crustacean shells, as well as a part of the cell wall of fungi. As a rule, all commercial products (Chitosan Evalar, Chitosan Tianshi, sports nutrition) contain a mixture of chitin and chitosan.
Effects and use of chitosan
Chitosan molecules are positively charged and highly soluble in acidic and neutral media. This gives the drug adhesive properties – binding to negatively charged molecules. Chitosan improves the transport of polar drugs through the gastrointestinal wall. A chitosan derivative, trimethylchitosan, is used to deliver DNA to the donor cell. Trimethylchitosan is able to penetrate cancer cells and exert cytotoxicity.
In agriculture, chitosan is mainly used as a natural seed treatment and plant growth gas pedal, and as an environmentally friendly biopesticide that enhances the plants’ defenses against fungal infections and some other plant parasites.
Chitosan is also used as an auxiliary component in the water filtration process. It causes small particles to bind into larger particles, which increases the efficiency of filters. Chitosan helps remove phosphorus, heavy metals, fats and other suspended particles from water. So, for example, while a conventional sand filter removes only 50% of pollutants, the percentage increases to 90% when chitosan is added.
Recently, scientists have synthesized a special resin, polyurethane (polymeric materials in which chitosan is added), which is used to coat the surface of various objects. The distinctive feature of this coating is that small scratches disappear in the sun after only 1 hour of exposure. This makes it possible to use polyurethane, for example, to paint cars, which will retain an exceptional shine even after the application of minor scratches.
Chitosan in Medicine
When applied to a wound, chitosan causes rapid thrombus formation and helps stop bleeding, so it is added to dressings and hemostatic agents. Chitosan-based hemostatic agents are FDA-approved and are even included in the U.S. Army First Aid Kit. It has been shown that chitosan can even stop severe arterial bleeding that is life-threatening. In addition, chitosan suppresses the development of pathogenic bacteria in the wound.
Chitosan for weight loss
Chitosan is often included in sports supplements designed for weight loss. This is due to its ability to bind to fat particles in the digestive tract and reduce absorption. Chitosan can be used on its own as a weight-loss tool while following a low-calorie diet. In 2007 Cochrane analyzed data regarding the use of chitosan for weight loss and concluded that chitosan helps to lower cholesterol and body weight. Compared to placebo, the weight of the control group was reduced by 1.7 kg by chitosan alone, which is very high. Its effect is dose-dependent, so many supplements are ineffective because of the low content of chitosan. Choose supplements in which the dosage of chitosan is at least 1000 mg. “Warning.”
In an experimental gastrointestinal model, chitosan has been shown to interact with fats and inhibit absorption in the duodenum and increase fecal fat excretion. Other clinical trials have found only a slight difference in fecal fat excretion after chitosan administration. In a study comparing the effects of orlistat (a pancreatic lipase inhibitor) and chitosan on fecal fat excretion, the latter was found not to inhibit fat absorption.
The mechanism of action of the drug is still unclear, with scientists agreeing that more research is needed.
Chitosan – Side Effects
Chitosan has been proven in several studies not to cause side effects and is not harmful even in very large quantities. Some scientists thought that chitosan might reduce the absorption of some vitamins and minerals and consequently cause side effects such as vitamin deficiency, etc. However, a clinical study showed that chitosan does not reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
There was also a careful study on mice that investigated the ability of chitosan to suppress the absorption of nutrients (copper, zinc, and iron). Scientists found no suppression of absorption of beneficial substances and no side effects.
Sports nutrition that contains chitosan:
- Thermoloid by Goliath Labs
- Chitosan from Nature’s Science
- Super Fat Bloc Chitosan from Ultimate Nutrition
- Chitosan from Eclipse
- Cheaters Relief by BSN – discontinued
- chitosan by weider
- Chitosan Evalar
- Chitosan by tenshi
Dosage and regimen
Recommended dosage of chitosan 1-2 g with or immediately after meals.
Testimonials from scientists
For many years, chitosan has been advertised as a weight-loss supplement, the so-called “fat trap. It is claimed that chitosan can reduce fat absorption and blood cholesterol levels. This claim is based on animal experiments in which chitosan has been shown to reduce cholesterol and fat absorption. However, studies conducted in humans have shown less impressive results. They note that chitosan has no effect on specific fat mass, on changes in body structure, in people following a normal diet. Only one study has found that chitosan can reduce blood lipid levels in humans.
Recent experiments have shown that the effect of chitosan on fat absorption is very small, equivalent to 9.9 kcal/day. In another paper, researchers found that the amount of fat bound is so small that it would take about 7 months in men to reduce weight by 0.45 kg, while in women chitosan is ineffective at all.
Thus, modern research has shown that chitosan is certainly ineffective in terms of weight loss and as a “fat blocker”.