Chitosan – properties and application


Chitosan is one of the most popular ingredients for slimming preparations.But this is not his only use.Chitosan is used as a fertilizer in agriculture, material for dressings that accelerate wound healing, and perhaps soon objects of everyday use will be produced from it.

Chitosan is an extremely versatile material obtained from chitin – a building component of marine crustaceans shells.As a result, a biodegradable polymer with a wide application in medicine, veterinary, cosmetics and environmental protection is obtained.

The chemical structure of chitosan is similar to hyaluronic acid.Thanks to this structure, it inhibits, among others, the growth of microorganisms and accelerates wound healing, which is the result of stimulation of immune cells.Preparations with chitosan form a delicate protective layer on the skin that protects against harmful external factors and effectively retains water in the skin.Strong moisturizing properties also cause that it is often used as an ingredient in skincare cosmetics.Due to its complete biodegradability and high nitrogen content, it is also used in agriculture as a fertilizer for seed treatment and a biological plant protection product combating fungal infections.

Great hopes are also associated with the use of chitosan for the production of ecological products of everyday use.It has a biopolymer structure that allows forming three-dimensional shapes from it.It is already used for the production of drug capsules.And what results in its use in slimming preparations?

HCA Chitosan

Chitosan as a fat blocker

In the case of chitosan, the mechanism of action supporting slimming is the binding of fats in the gastrointestinal tract.As a result, the degree of digestion and absorption in the small intestine is reduced.In the normal digestion process, fats are gradually broken down by enzymes secreted by the gall bladder and pancreas (so-called lipases).As a result, small particles of fatty acids reach the small intestine and are absorbed into the body.

Chitosan binds large fat molecules already in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, preventing them from being broken down by enzymes and thus making it difficult to absorb.As a result, they are excreted in the faeces.In other words, this substance does not accelerate the burning of fats, it only eliminates them from the digestive tract.


The efficacy of chitosan is unresolved

The properties of chitosan to support weight loss have been repeatedly studied both on humans and on animals.Their results varied … One of them was carried out, inter alia, in Katowice under the supervision of prof.Barbara Zahorska-Markiewicz (regarding Chitinin).In clinical conditions, it was found that patients using chitosan lost an average weight of 16 kg in half a year.At the same time, the control group of patients using only diet lost 10 kg.


In turn, another study found that the addition of chitosan to the diet has a positive effect on the bacterial flora of the digestive tract.Studies on rodents have shown that chitosan with a high degree of deacetylation inhibits the development of Clostridium perfringens (bacteria most often responsible for food poisoning), whereas the survival of probiotic bacteria, including Lactobacillus spp. And Bifidobacterium spp., Reached 90%.

In 2008, however, a team of scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a meta-analysis of all available clinical trials (lasting at least 4 weeks) on the effectiveness of chitosan in the fight against obesity.It turned out that the decrease in body weight, cholesterol (and consequently also blood pressure) was observed only in clinical trials with low reliability – and in their case the effect was small.In turn, in studies that were carried out with greater care, there was no significant effect of taking dietary supplements with chitosan on body weight.So far, the mechanism of combining chitosan with fat molecules has not been clinically proven, which is the essence of its action supporting slimming.

Supplementation of chitosan is indicated for people who consume a significant amount of fatty products.

As a result, the American agency FDA (Food and Drug Administration) forbade domestic producers of dietary supplements with chitosan to put on their packaging statements and slogans suggesting its pro-health effects.There are no such restrictions in Poland.

Chitosan supplementation is recommended for people who consume large quantities of fatty foods (fatty meats, pies, etc.).As fat is also a component of many confectionery products, chitosan can be helpful for people who eat sweets that usually contain large amounts of saturated fat.

Dietary Fibre Apple

Chitosan – contraindications and side effects

Not everyone can use preparations containing chitosan.The most important contraindication to its use is … allergy to crustaceans.Because chitosan is obtained from quinine, which is derived from crustaceans’ shells, it is possible after the ingestion of an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to seafood.Preparations with this ingredient should also not be used by people taking anticoagulants.There is a risk that the mechanism of action of chitosan – involving the binding of fats – will also affect the absorption of these drugs, reducing their concentration in the body, and thus their effectiveness.

Limiting the absorption of fats in the gastrointestinal tract may also be associated with a smaller supply of vitamins soluble in them.As a result, people using dietary supplements or medical devices with chitosan may suffer from deficiencies of vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as essential fatty acids (EFA).When taking these types of preparations, it is worth to take care of supplementing these ingredients, eg by enriching the diet with unsaturated fatty acids from marine fish, oilseeds, olive oil, vegetable oils and eliminating saturated fatty acids.

Compared with other substances that are part of slimming dietary supplements, chitosan is relatively safe.Side effects that it can cause are mainly constipation, gas, nausea and indigestion.


Read also: Dietary fiber and weight loss

Posted on: January 8, 2019

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