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Chitosan is a common weight loss supplement ingredient that is made out of a substance called chitin.  Chitin is the material that mollusks, crabs, and other shelled sea creatures use to make their shells.

Other Names for Chitosan

Though chitosan is among the most common names for this ingredient, there are many others by which it is known.  Therefore, depending on the product label you’re reading, you may also see this substance called any of the following (among others):

  • Quitosano,
  • Enzymatic polychitosamine hydrolisat,
  • HEP-30,
  • Chitosane,
  • Deacetylated Chitin,
  • Trimethyl chitosan chloride,
  • N-Carboxybutyl chitosan,
  • O-sulfated N-acetylchitosan

What Does This Ingredient Do?

There are a number of different claims that have been made about chitosan, so it is important to look into the products that contain them very carefully before you decide to take one.  It is advised that you speak with a doctor before beginning to use of any product that contains this ingredient.  This will help to make sure that you will be using it safely, and that it is appropriate for you to begin with.

Among the reasons that people will sometimes take supplements that contain chitosan include the following:

  • High cholesterol
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Symptoms in kidney failure dialysis patients including anemia, cholesterol, high phosphorus levels, loss of appetite, loss of appetite, and sleep struggles.
  • As a topical treatment for inflammation from periodontitis
  • To help prevent tooth cavities (as a chewing gum ingredient)
  • To help rebuild “donor tissue” among plastic surgery patients

Can Chitosan Help Weight Loss?

According to the marketers of products that contain chitosan, the substance can be compared to dietary fiber, as it passes through your digestive system without actually being absorbed.  They also claim that it adheres to some of the fat that has recently been consumed, so that it will also stop that from being absorbed into the body.  That said, studies* have shown that it won’t actually help to eliminate any of the stored body fat that have already formed the deposits on your body.

Chitosan supplement manufacturers often direct users to take an average of 2 to 6 grams of the substance each day in order to reduce cholesterol levels and to assist with weight loss efforts.  However, only your doctor can tell you if this is right for you and how much someone with your health conditions and weight loss needs should be taking.

Some studies have indicated that chitosan is superior to taking a placebo when it comes to short term assistance in the treatment of obesity.  That said, trials that use this product have, so far, been known to be weak in their quality and objectivity.  A review of 15 trials by the University of Auckland in 2008, which was published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, indicated that there have yet to be any significant reliable studies that would support the claims that have been made regarding the benefits that this substance can provide to dieters.

Drawbacks of This Diet Pill Ingredient

There are some side effects associated with the use of Chitosan.  These include digestive and intestinal upset such as flatulence, diarrhea, and bloating.  Moreover, if the substance does bind to fat as it claims, it may also increase the risk of fat soluble vitamin deficiency and may change the effects of oral contraceptives and estrogen.

It’s very important to speak with your doctor before starting to use a diet pill – or any other supplement – that contains chitosan.  This substance is not considered to be proven beneficial for weight loss.  Moreover, it is not appropriate for everyone. It has the potential to conflict with certain medications and medical conditions. Moreover, it can be dangerous for people with certain allergies.

Talking to your doctor will help you to know if this is the right ingredient for you, if you can use it safely and effectively, or if you should consider an alternative. Your doctor can likely suggest an alternate diet pill that will be much more appropriate to your weight loss dieting support needs and expectations.

*  Jull AB, Ni Mhurchu C, Bennett DA, Dunshea-Mooij CA, Rodgers A. Cochrane Database Systemic Reviews.”Chitosan for overweight or obesity”. 2008 Jul 16;(3).

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