Does Chitosan Really Work?

Most weight-loss supplements claim to help patients lose weight in a short time. Unlike prescription drugs, over-the-counter weight-loss supplements are not subjected to rigorous standards. According to MayoClinic.com, chitosan is an over-the-counter weight-loss supplement that helps block dietary fat.

Green caps next to a bottle. (Image: wasansos1/iStock/Getty Images)

About Chitosan

Chitosan comes from a substance called chitin, a sugar derivative found in exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans such as shrimps, crabs and lobsters. According to Vanderbilt University, chitin was discovered during the 1800s. It was observed to be a complex compound that can be manipulated by chemical processes and temperature. During the 20th century, further studies were conducted to determine the benefits of chitin. Experts were able to observe chitin's hemostatic and detoxifying qualities, giving it the ability to absorb fat, grease, oils and toxins.

Function

Chitosan blocks the absorption of dietary fat. This potent dietary supplement binds with fat and prevents it from depositing and accumulating in the body. This action prevents weight gain, making the body appear slimmer. The absorbed fat and cholesterol is excreted together with the stools during bowel movement. The United States Food and Drug Administration considers Chitosan as possibly safe for consumers.

Types

Chitosan weight-loss supplements are prepared in solid and liquid form. Chitosan tablets and capsules are the dry and solid type. According to the FDA, Chitosan 500mg tablets can be sold solely or together with other supplements such as Chromium. Liquid Chitosan is clear and yellowish in color. Unlike the tablets, which form large clumps of fat in the digestive system, the liquid chitosan causes fat to form into tiny pieces. These small clumps are easier to digest and pass.

Complications

Taking excessive amounts of chitosan can cause certain vitamin deficiencies. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, fat-soluble vitamins -- namely vitamins A, D, E and K, which are stored in the liver and fatty tissues -- can bind with chitosan. There's a possibility for these vitamins to be depleted insignificantly. Patients who are allergic to crustaceans and shellfish will develop hypersensitivity reactions when taking chitosan.

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