June 11, 2013
What natural substance heals wounds, stops bleeding, lowers cholesterol, and binds to fat cells?
I’ll give you a hint: it comes from the exoskeletons of shellfish.
Chitosan, pronounced kahy-tuh-san, is a complex molecule classified as a carbohydrate. It is attracting attention in both weight loss and medical communities due to its unique benefits. But how does it work?
Chitosan and Fat Loss
In diet pills, chitosan is often described as a fat blocker. Aptly named, fat blockers allegedly stop the digestive system from absorbing fats. Instead, recently consumed fats pass through the body and don’t contribute to weight gain.
Because of numerous claims chitosan is a fat blocker, several research studies examined chitosan’s effects on weight loss. A review of 14 chitosan trials drew these conclusions:
“There is some evidence that chitosan is more effective than placebo in the short-term treatment of overweight and obesity. However, many trials to date have been of poor quality and results have been variable. Results obtained from high quality trials indicate that the effect of chitosan on body weight is minimal and unlikely to be of clinical significance.”
Still, chitosan caused no adverse side effects in these studies, indicating it’s a safe diet pill ingredient.
Taking chitosan as part of a weight loss plan can be beneficial. However, it works best when combined with a reduced-calorie diet.
Chitosan as a Dietary Fiber
Another weight loss related use for chitosan is as a dietary fiber. Chitosan is a carbohydrate molecule which doesn’t digest, qualifying it as a dietary fiber.
An examination of several dietary fibers listed chitosan as one that is highly viscous. This means it forms a gel-like consistency. That’s an important quality in a dietary fiber. A viscous fiber not only expands to create feelings of satiety but also alters food absorption.
A 2011 scientific review of several dietary fibers included chitosan. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, this study showed two-thirds of chitosan studies resulted in weight loss. While this weight loss was generally minimal, this is still evidence chitosan benefits weight loss.
Chitosan and Cholesterol
Further chitosan research indicates it is helpful for reducing cholesterol levels in certain people. The studies aren’t entirely conclusive yet, but the results are intriguing enough that scientists continue to study this potential chitosan benefit.
The earliest study of chitosan’s effects on cholesterol was done in 1993. Participants in this study excreted above normal amounts of bile acids, which reduced their blood cholesterol levels.
A more extensive study took place in 2005. In total, 95 people participated in this study from beginning to end. Daily dosages of 1,200 to 2,400 mg chitosan proved effective at lowering LDL cholesterol. Most patients in this study were at risk for cardiovascular disease. Consequently, their cholesterol levels were already somewhat elevated, meaning chitosan had more available cholesterol to bind to and remove.
Chitosan and Wound Healing
One exciting chitosan use is its amazing abilities in slowing blood loss and healing damaged tissues. Animal studies of this chitosan property show it creates the following benefits:
- Stops severe bleeding more quickly
- Encourage skin growth over wounds
- Bind cut skin together quickly
Currently, chitosan is not commercially sold for these purposes. But, these studies provide further evidence of chitosan’s importance and versatility.
A Last Look at Chitosan’s Benefits
Research on chitosan’s benefits is still ongoing. However, you can still enjoy its positive benefits by taking a dietary supplement featuring this ingredient. When combined with a healthy lifestyle, chitosan has a lot to offer.
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