Q & A: Adaptogens and Chi Tonics Improve Hormone Levels

| May/June 2000

Chitosan For Weight Loss?

I’ve been doing some research on chitosan. It sounds like a dream come true for weight-watchers, but I’m concerned because I haven’t been able to find information on it. It seems that chitosan might deplete your system of fat-soluble vitamins.

Stansbury responds: Chitosan (pronounced “kite-o-san”) is derived from chitin, a fiber-like compound obtained from the tough exoskeletons of marine shellfish. The chitin is processed to create a biopolymer (a naturally occurring chain-like molecule) that forms a gel-like substance in the intestines.

Like many natural fibers, gums, and pec-tins, chitosan is reported to trap ingested fats within the intestines, preventing their ab-sorption. Also, like many fibers and related compounds, chitosan is reported to reduce the synthesis of new cholesterol and improve the HDL to LDL ratio.

Furthermore, chitosan does interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. While it doesn’t “deplete” your body of fat-soluble vitamins, it can usurp the vitamins and nutrients present in the fat that it traps. Though unlikely to promote frank nutritional deficiencies, chitosan can easily trap nutrients, just as the fiber can trap fat.

Also, I confess to having some concerns with grinding up shellfish exoskeletons to manage our weight or cholesterol. The fiber in legumes, the pectin in apples, or the gums in oatmeal and seaweed, for example, have also been shown to trap lipids and benefit cholesterol levels. To me, these foods seem to be a kinder, gentler choice in medicine.

Willard responds: You’re right—chitosan is both a dream come true and an area of concern for consumers. This fiber substance is another form of roughage that we know can be good for us. Like some plant fibers, it’s not digestible and therefore has no caloric value. Research on chitosan as a natural weight loss agent, as a fiber for adding bulk to the digestive system, and for colon cleansing dates back more than seventeen years.

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