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Chitosan? What is Chitosan??

Chitosan is produced commercially by deacetylation of chitin , which is the structural element in the exoskeleton of crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, etc.). The degree of deacetylation (%DA) can be determined by NMR spectroscopy, and the %DA in commercial chitosans is in the range 60-100 %.

The amino group in chitosan has a pKa value of ~6.5, thus, chitosan is positively charged and soluble in acidic to neutral solution with a charge density dependent on pH and the %DA-value. In other words, chitosan is bioadhesive and readily binds to negatively charged surfaces such as mucosal membranes. Chitosan enhances the transport of polar drugs across epithelial surfaces, and is biocompatible and biodegradable. Purified qualities of chitosans are available for biomedical applications.

Chitosan and its derivatives such as trimethylchitosan (where the amino group has been trimethylated) have been used in non-viral gene delivery. Trimethylchitosan, or quaternised chitosan, has been shown to transfect breast cancer cells; with increased degree of trimethylation increasing the cytotoxicity and at approximately 50% trimethylation the derivative is the most efficient at gene delivery. Oligomeric derivatives (3-6 kDa) are relatively non-toxic and have good gene delivery properties.


Chitosan is used primarily as a plant growth enhancer, and as a substance that boosts the ability of plants to defend against fungal infections. It is approved for use outdoors and indoors on many plants grown commercially and by consumers. The active ingredient is found in the shells of crustaceans, such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp, and in certain other organisms. Given its low potential for toxicity and its abundance in the natural environment, chitosan is not expected to harm people, pets, wildlife, or the environment when used according to label directions.

Chitosan can also be used in water processing engineering as a part of a filtration process. Chitosan causes the fine sediment particles to bind together and is subsequently removed with the sediment during sand filtration. Chitosan also removes phosphorus, heavy minerals, and oils from the water. Chitosan is an important additive in the filtration process. Sand filtration apparently can remove up to 50% of the turbidity alone while the Chitosan with sand filtration removes up to 99% turbidity.

Chitosan is also useful in other filtration situations, where one may need to remove suspended particles from a liquid. Chitosan, in combination with bentonite, gelatin, silica gel, isinglass, or other fining agents is used to clarify wine, mead, and beer. Added late in the brewing process, chitosan improves flocculation, and removes yeast cells, fruit particles, and other detritus that cause hazy wine. Chitosan combined with colloidal silica is becoming a popular fining agent for white wines, because chitosan does not require acidic tannins (found primarily in red wines) to flocculate with.

Biomedical use

Chitosan's properties allow it to rapidly clot blood, and has recently gained approval in the USA for use in bandages and other hemostatic agents. Chitosan purified from shrimp shells is used in a granular hemostatic product, Celox, made by Medtrade Biopolymers Inc. of Crewe, England and in the chitosan dressings made by HemCon Medical Technologies Inc. of Portland, OR, USA. The Hemcon product reduces blood loss in comparison to gauze dressings and increases patient survival . Hemcon products have been sold to the United States Army, who have already used the bandages on the battlefields of Iraq . Chitosan is hypoallergenic, and has natural anti-bacterial properties, further supporting its use in field bandages.

Claimed benefits

Chitosan is frequently sold in tablet form at health stores as a 'fat attractor': It is supposed to have the capability of attracting fat from the digestive system and expelling it from the body so that users can, it is claimed, lose weight without eating less. However, some scientific research suggests that these claims are likely without substance. At best, unmodified chitosan would remove roughly 30 calories per day from a person's diet. Modfied chitosan is claimed to absorb anywhere up to three to six times its weight in fat and oils. Detractors claim that using chitosan may have the deleterious effect of rendering ineffective certain minerals found in foodstuffs and required by the body in order to remain healthy.

Revolutionizing Weight Loss?
Just What Most People Want To Hear...

Everyone enjoys a good fatty meal from fast food restaurant from time to time. Or maybe just a bag of chips, a candy bar, or an ice cream cone. All of these are food items which people consume on a regular basis and are full of fat. For years, the public has worried about the intake of fat from items such as these and has almost obsessed over weight, figures, and fat. With all the hype about liquid diets, diet pills, diet programs, etc. who wouldn't jump at the idea of an all natural solution. The makers of this product has certainly done their share of work to create an image truly appealing to any and all that dream of losing that extra fat. This probable solution is called chitosan and is simply a fat inhibitor which appears to work miracles for those in search of a safe way to lose that body fat. The information surrounding this product is extremely impressive and appears to justify a revolutionary new discovery. However, is this truly what it is dressed up to be or is it yet another gimmick?

Let's now take a look at exactly what is chitosan is used for weight loss. There is no significant studies to thus back up this information or to explain exactly how such procedures take place. Basically stated, chitosan is a special fiber which is able to "soak up" or absorb anywhere from six to ten times its weight in fat and oils. In substance, it is chemically similar to the plant fiber, cellulose.

However, chitosan is able to significantly bind with fat molecules and convert them into a form which the human body does not absorb. It claims to affect the fat prior to it reaching the stomach and thus the fat never has a chance to be metabolized. It prevents the absorption and storage of fat by converting into a gel which "traps" the fat. In some sort, it creates a "grease ball" from this excess fat, which is too large to be absorbed by the body. It thus becomes an inert substance and is excreted in the stool. Chitosan fiber is unlike other fibers in that it carries a positive ionic charge. Since lipids, fats, and bile acids all possess negative charges, there is a chemical bond between the two and thus they attract naturally to one another. This unique ability is what makes chitosan so remarkable. This amazingly "too good to be true" ability is also what causes suspicions to arise on the validity of these claims.

Benefiting Weight Loss

Besides from the obvious effect that fat is not absorbed into the body with the presence of chitosan, it goes a lot deeper in benefiting weight loss. Chitosan is a 100% natural and acts as a super fiber. Thus, supplementing the diet with chitosan, is part of creating a cleansing process which is said to be extremely vital to weight loss.

Take note that these are again the simple declarations made by the producers of chitosan and are supported with no background studies or thus medical proof of any sort. Another stated advantage of chitosan comes from the idea that the chitosan-bound fat leaves the intestinal tract without ever entering the bloodstream. Exactly how this process takes place is not clear and seems to be somewhat far fetched. If this indeed is possible, then the point is made that there would be no caloric value and no matter how much chitosan a person takes, the caloric count remains zero.

The producers of chitosan-based products also try to claim that since a person taking chitosan continues to eat some sort of fats and is able to continue eating these types of food, the body does not crave such fattening foods nor is it starving or feeling any added sense of hunger. By supplementing chitosan into one's diet, there is less fat that the body accumulates. With less fat entering the body, the body turns to previously stored body fat to burn up. This shifts the energy source from your diet to your stored body fat and results in a net reduction in that fat - and in your weight. Obviously, the allegations are extremely pleasing, now whether or not they actually could be a reality is another side to these claims.

Additions to Increase Effects

The benefits of chitosan in weight loss can be greatly boosted by the simple additions to go along with Vitamin C. The producers claim that increased appetite suppression is obtained by the addition of citric acid, which boosts the swelling action of chitosan. They claim that this addition could so much as double the effectiveness of chitosan. Thus, many of the products on the market today which contain chitosan as a chief substance, also include the addition of some sort of vitamin C supplement. One such product is the Fat Zapper, which contains 250 mg of chitosan, 240 mg of high quality grapefruit fiber, and 10 mg of vitamin C per capsule.

Administering Chitosan

The instructions in which to properly administer the supplementation of chitosan are quite simple. The most common advice is to follow some sort of simple plan such as the one that follows: Take one or two capsules ten minutes before each of your three daily meals. Here the chitosan will supposedly help bind excess fat from the meal or snack which has just been consumed. It also serves as an added fiber intake, which aides in digestion, soothing the stomach lining and speeding up the process of elimination of undigested fats and wastes. Also, drink about six to eight glasses of water daily. This is common in any situation where there is an addition of fiber or a need for faster digestion. Also, it is extremely advisable to include moderate exercise.

Simple exercises which contain any type of sustained aerobic activity can greatly enhance the results and the time in which physical results will appear. These steps are fairly easy and create a setting in which one's body, with the added chitosan, can actively work to reduce the amount of body fat.

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