As a desire for health increases, and the achievement of a healthy body continues to be at something of a premium, there is increasing interest in products derived from natural ingredients whose biological properties can positively affect the body. Chitosan is one of the more recent newcomers to the supplement game (though it has been studied for far longer than that), and as this ingredient continues to be studied with donor rat kidneys and in human studies, alike, its potential benefits in biomedical systems continue to be explored and detailed as a way to support general health, increase body weight reduction, and even trigger improvements to the cardiovascular system. 

The potential benefits of chitosan are vast, ranging from improving outcomes of dental surgeries and the presence of cariogenic bacteria to increasing skin health, but chitosan dietary supplements have yet to be studied  in biomedical systems as conclusively as many other well-known and well-studied natural interventions. Nevertheless, despite the infancy of studies looking into chitosan, the shell-derived component has shown a great deal of promise in improving health outcomes for obese patients, seemingly healthy patients, and otherwise healthy mice. 

Before delving into the intricacies of sulfated chitosan dietary supplementation and its effects on body weight and the kidneys, however, we must understand what it is and where it comes from. 

What is Chitosan?

Chitosan is a polymer found in the outer skeleton of shrimp, lobster, and other crustaceans, noted for its antioxidant abilities, bactericidal activities, and even hypoglycemic properties, all of which can be used to aid in body weight reduction and support health, even in the presence of a high-fat diet and other lifestyle habits linked to decreases in kidney health. Chitosan has been isolated as a useful dietary supplement because it has been linked to countless health benefits such as improved kidney function.

Chitin, the compound from which chitosan is derived, was discovered over 200 years ago, in the early 1800s. Originally found in mushrooms, chitin was further studied within the hard outer skeletons of insects, and finally in crustaceans. Chitin was so valued for its ability to be produced in great amounts and as a consequence, scientists were extremely interested in and moved by its potential, including the different concentrations in type of chitosan and how they are produced and operated. 

An amino polysaccharide, the compound has immense potential as an antioxidant within the body for its tremendous positive charge, which can effectively attract free radicals moving about in and harming the body. The precise application of chitosan as an administered antioxidant is little understood, and scientists and researchers continue to evaluate its possible uses in clinical studies, including its effects on chronic kidney disease, heart health including serum LDL cholesterol, dental health, and even aging. The health status in rats fed chitosan demonstrate the immense value of the intervention.  

What are the benefits of Chitosan for kidney health as per the latest scientific research?

Although chitosan has been identified as a useful supplement for numerous health concerns, one of its most significant abilities is its potential use as a kidney support tool, as evidenced by the effects observed in donor rat kidneys. As one study in PubMed determined, patients in renal failure who were given chitosan tablets for a week observed the following changes:

  • Decreases in urea and creatinine levels. Urea and creatinine are both compounds involved in kidney function. When levels are too high, the kidneys are overtaxed and damage can be incurred. The adverse effects of high urea and creatinine levels are astronomical, and renal tissue damage is among the first results. Blood urea nitrogen levels are positively impacted by chitosan supplementation.  
  • Increases in hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin levels are required to be at optimal levels for countless functions in the body. Kidney disease often results in anemia, and poor hemoglobin levels can further complicate the effects of kidney disease. Chitosan dietary supplementation showed promise as a useful intervention to increase iron levels in the body. 
  • Improved physical strength, appetite, and sleep. Clinical trials involving all types of kidney diseases, including disorders of the renal tubules, demonstrate the truly staggering impact kidney malfunction has on strength, appetite, and sleep. The clinical trial using chitosan demonstrated a marked increase in renal patient strength, appetite, and sleep quality. 

While renal function may not have been restored entirely, patients in renal failure or with kidney damage experienced a significant change in their general health and well-being, including decreased blood urea nitrogen levels, improved serum creatinine levels, and improved health to tubular cells. 

Despite the improvements seen in the patients in the study, research still has a long way to go; the previous study mentioned was not conducted with the correct type of eligibility criteria a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, and thus has its limitations when detailing the biological effects of chitosan supplementation. The supplement is not currently recommended for kidney health by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has plenty of promise as a supplementary treatment option and may even have applications in nanomedicine. 

How does Chitosan work to improve kidney function?

The primary mechanism behind chitosan's improvements to renal function is not yet known; recent research indicates that further evaluation is needed to truly understand how chitosan affects the kidneys. Despite the limitations of current research, chitosan continues to garner a great deal of interest, as improved kidney function in patients with chronic kidney disease and other kidney disorders has consistently been demonstrated in clinical trials, with potential applications in nanomedicine.

While tissue engineering and other interventions to help kidney function are certainly useful and valuable, the intake of chitosan affects kidney failure and kidney disease in a way that does not potentially harm other organs and other bodily systems, which makes conduction ongoing trials of chitosan a viable area of study to improve the health of tubular cells, increase antioxidant activity, and improve general health. 

General health and well-being may be at least partially at the root; plasma cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, and even paracrine functions can all be positively impacted by chitosan. When plasma cholesterol levels, blood pressure numbers, paracrine function, and adipose tissues are all within normal ranges, the kidneys can function more appropriately. 

chitosan for weight loss

Are there any side effects and risks of taking Chitosan supplements?

Like all supplements and medications, there are some side effects that have been associated with chitosan consumption. The effects of chitosan supplementation in excess include malabsorption of some vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, selenium, and vitamins A, D, E, and K, intestinal bacterial overgrowth, effects similar to those of a blood thinner, and an increased risk of osteoporosis in compact bones. The degree of chitosan being consumed is an important factor. In appropriate dosing when taken orally or when engaging in other practices such as chitosan rinsing, negative effects are negligible and positive ones are palpable, including chitosan's effects on body weight. 

It should also be noted that some effects of chitosan could be seen as having negative biological properties. Blood pressure, for instance, is usually seen as a solid marker of health. If you had blood thinning medication, however, decreased blood pressure and paracrine functions can prove hazardous.  Weight loss is also seen as popular in obese patients, but drastic effects on body weight can be problematic in populations without excess weight. 

Pilot studies identify intestinal overgrowth as a potential risk of chitosan supplementation because chitosan has bactericidal activities and anti-fungal properties. While this can prove useful in some instances--namely, when there are infections or risk of infection present--it can also harm the balance of healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. Intestinal flora concentrations in subjects with a massive intake of chitosan demonstrated problematic gut flora numbers, though this same effect was not seen when the degree of chitosan being delivered was in accordance with current recommendations to keep bactericidal activities to a low. 

Because not a great deal is known about how the intake of chitosan affects all areas of the body, chitosan for body weight, antioxidant improvement, and more has not been officially approved or even thoroughly evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In the pilot studies that have researched the therapeutic effects of chitosan, though most were not randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, chitosan in adult males, obese subjects, and others was safe and effective in appropriate doses when used in complementary medicine. 

Adverse side effects have not been tied to appropriate use of chitosan,  which is an important difference to take note of. Proven that chitosan is taken in lower doses and in accordance with current recommendations, it has not been linked to a great deal of adverse side effects on gut health, compact bones, or nutrient absorption. When a massive intake of chitosan is present, side effects do begin to come out. Obese individuals, people with kidney concerns, and people with aging concerns should not use large doses of chitosan to attempt to boost efficacy, as doing so can actually cause kidney damage over time or lead to the development of other concerns. 

Where can I find Chitosan supplements?

Chitosan can actually already be found in many over-the-counter dietary supplements, and there is even chitosan-containing gum. Typically labeled as "fat blockers" or "fat trappers," chitosan is found in many products that claim to aid in fat burning or to reduce fat retention, even in the presence of a high-fat diet, or a diet not usually conducive to weight loss. 

While newcomers to this supplement (including diabetic subjects) should not consider  using a chitosan supplement on weight loss in isolation, there is some evidence in pilot studies to support the use of chitosan as a means of encouraging fat excretion and subsequent loss when administered orally, without the addition of dietary surveillance (though one study indicated this was not the case for Asian subjects). These studies do not take the place of medical advice, but to date, chitosan has not shown any harmful interactions with existing medication, and sulfated chitosan  is considered a safe supplement with links to improvements in plasma cholesterol levels, blood pressure, kidney damage, and even insulin levels. 

FINE USA's own Calorie Burn, Black has chitosan, and three other natural ingredients: chlorogenic acid, fermented oolong tea extract, and bamboo coal. Calorie Burn Black may help maintain a healthy body by increasing the body's ability to maintain a healthy weight. Chitosan for weight loss is not an exact science, but a soluble chitosan supplement can be a useful addition to obese subjects' weight loss efforts. 

Recommended dosage

Determining a specific dosage for chitosan dietary supplements can be difficult, due to the lack of ample studies on the ingredient. One source, however, indicates that 1-1.35 grams taken orally each day for up to 12 weeks will deliver the most effective intervention. The precise dosage will depend on the product being consumed, though this particular type of complementary medicine can come with side effects if not utilized in the recommended way, so high doses should be avoided. 

Conclusion

The biological effects of chitosan supplementation appear to be vast, including improvements to serum creatinine levels, antioxidant activity, body weight reduction, and improvements to numerous other systems in the body. While creatine supplements and other drugs designed to improve kidney health are certainly effective, many of them come with unwanted side effects. In addition to the useful pharmacological properties of chitosan, the effects of chitosan on plasma lipoprotein levels are substantial, as are its cholesterol-lowering properties, its ability to decrease adipose tissue in obese subjects without a hypocaloric diet, and its therapeutic potential for the signs and symptoms of aging across multiple systems, including the skin, all without severe dietary interventions, like eliminating a high-fat diet and opting for a lower one. 

Obese individuals have often been directed to use chitosan as a weight loss supplement even while consuming a high-fat diet or high-sugar diet, individuals with kidney disease have been directed to the kidney health and tubular cell health status in rats fed chitosan, and the general therapeutic potential of chitosan has been observed in people with a variety of health needs and from a variety of backgrounds, from serum LDL cholesterol management to suboptimal body composition and a history of myocardial infarction and acute kidney injury in current studies. Even in the presence of a high-fat diet, chitosan supplementation can result in body weight reduction, improvements to kidney health, and improvements to general health, making it a supplement worth the while to look into more. 

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