by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

The research was scanty at the time, however, and to a certain extent interest lapsed although some faithful users continued to buy it and benefit from it, and get annoyed when it was hard for me to find it. Now, it seems, this substance is coming into its own, with new and convincing research to back up its use for the above problems, as well as weight loss. . The generic name for it is CHITIN, or CHITOSAN, and it is made from the exoskeletons of shell fish. I know, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but believe me, I could name worse sources for some of the medicines we take!  It does mean, though, that you need to avoid it if you have allergies to fish or shellfish.I have written  before about the importance of fiber to our health, pointing out that low fiber diets have been connected to many chronic health problems ranging from colon irregularities to diabetes to heart disease. In fact, a 1997 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that for every 10 grams of dietary fiber you consume per day, you lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 29%!  I have recently come across a book about a particular kind of fiber that underlines all the things I have said, and how.Many years ago, I came across a product from Norway that impressed me considerably with its potential: called ABSORBITOL, it was described as  a “Fat Blocker”, and was marketed mostly as a weight control formula: but along with that came a good deal of evidence to suggest it would help blood lipids (triglycerides) and cholesterol, and on that basis I recommended it to a number of people who had excellent results.  Triglyceride, LDL and total cholesterol reductions in the 20 to 30% range are not uncommon.

The studies supporting its effects have been done in Japan, and are extremely persuasive. Much of the research has been done by a Professor Okuda, who defines a “health ” or “functional” food as one that fulfills one or two of the following functions:

1) fortification of immunity,
2) prevention of aging,
3) prevention of illness,
4) recovery from illness, and
5) control of biorhythm.

He claims that Chitosan. fills all of these functions. A Dr. Matsunaga, M.D., who uses the Chitosan extensively in his practice, explains that this is because no particular organ is targeted: Chitosan  “activates the whole body’s cells and affects the health of the whole body,  and at the same time strengthens immune cells that eat cancer cells and infective viruses, causes the sick parts to recover from illness, adjusts an unbalanced autonomic nervous system … and removes unspecified complaints coming from autonomous nervous imbalances. Its action is not only local, but general … for example, a person who eats it to decrease high blood pressure (may also) lose shoulder stiffness and insomnia”.

It may seem incredible that one simple substance could possibly affect so many conditions, but the Doctors in this book give examples of problems as serious as diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart disease related states which have been overcome by the judicious use of Chitosan. They do warn that it is not a panacea, and should not be relied on to the exclusion of other therapies, but at the same time their enthusiasm for its effects is hard to resist. In Japan, at least a dozen books have been written about the use of Chitosan, and somewhere in the region of 2 million Japanese use the food daily, listing the benefits they obtain from weight loss to relief from severe lower back pain. It is obvious that this is an interesting new player on the supplement scene with impressive credentials.

It is because of Chitosan’s effectiveness at binding to fats that it is helpful as a weight loss agent for people who have problems metabolizing fats.  It appears to bind to fat molecules and carry them out of the body unabsorbed. However, it is also possible that it reduces the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and I recommend that you take a good multivitamin and mineral formula at a different time  from the Chitosan to make up for any possible deficiencies.

Another intriguing new use for Chitosan is in Kidney Dialysis:  Dr. Jonathan Wright says the following:

“Chitosan is most popular for its effectiveness as a weight control supplement. It is extracted from the shells of crustaceans, such as shrimp and crab, which means that if (people have) an allergy to shellfish, it’s not an option for (them). If not, however, (they) may want to consider it. A study published a few years ago clearly showed a benefit to dialysis patients who took chitosan.

 Half of the 80 study participants took 1,450 milligrams of chitosan, three times daily for 12 weeks; the other half didn’t take any chitosan. After the study period, researchers reported that the patients who took chitosan reported less fatigue and shortness of breath, and improvements in appetite, sleep, and feelings of physical strength. Their kidney function also appeared better, and they suffered from less severe anemia – a common problem in those with chronic kidney failure. And there were no significant side effects reported.”

Research suggests it may not be a good idea to use Chitosan if you are on blood thinners.

Find the recommended supplements here

Studies on Chitosan and lipid levels –

Chitosan and cholesterol levels –  a study –

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