From the epithelial cells found in the body's olfactory system, to improved insulin sensitivity, to cholesterol serum levels, the systematic review and meta-analysis of chitosan has been shown to function as an insulin-like growth factor to improve human health with minimal adverse effects and a host of potential benefits. Chitosan can be used to reduce fat accumulation, improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic health, improve lean body mass, and positively impact cardiovascular health. What exactly is chitosan capable of, and how do you determine which supplement will work for your weight management and health goals? To determine the answer to that, we must first take a deep dive into what chitosan is, and how it impacts the body.
What Are Chitosan Supplements?
Chitosan supplements are dietary supplements derived from chitin, a fibrous compound found in the hard shells of crustaceans such as shrimp, crab, and lobster, as well as the hard shells of some insects and the bodies of some mushrooms. While chitin is found in some insects and fungi, most orally administered supplements are made from chitin sourced from crab or shellfish, and packed in vegetable capsules. Unlike other supplements like green tea extract and garcinia cambogia, chitosan supplements often focus primarily on weight management and reducing fat accumulation, rather than the other health effects enjoyed by those who supplement with chitosan, including improvements to metabolic syndrome symptoms, cardiovascular disease symptoms, and more.
In animals, chitosan is primarily used as a feed additive (often called a COS-supplemented diet) and comes in the form of oligochitosan supplementation. In numerous studies published in the Journal of Animal Science and other animal-specific publications, the ileal digestibility and ability of chitosan to improve health and positively alter intestinal morphology without many adverse effects was evaluated and it was ultimately determined that chitosan could be a valuable addition to animal feed to improve health.
What Are the Benefits of Chitosan Supplements?
Systematic review and meta-analysis efforts are still evaluating the many roles chitosan plays in different medical conditions and health journeys, from kidney disease to weight management. Current studies are not definitive, but many people still enjoy using chitosan as a form of dietary supplementation because anecdotal evidence and preliminary evidence suggests that medical conditions and concerns respond well to chitosan, including:
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure has been linked to cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and poor or declining cardiovascular health, and countless medications have been developed to combat high blood pressure. Chitosan has shown promise as an effective way to attain body weight reduction while lowering blood pressure levels.
- Weight loss
Chitosan's effects on body weight are among the most commonly identified and lauded, as chitosan has been shown in several clinical trials and research studies to positively impact weight loss efforts even in the absence of intense exercise regimens or hypocaloric diets and in the presence of intestinal inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and other intestinal morphology that might make weight loss difficult. Hypocaloric diets and intense exercise regimens can cause issues with receiving enough nutrients and limiting stress responses, so chitosan can effectively reduce the need for a hypocaloric diet and intensive exercise and help the body effectively synthesize short-chain fatty acids, provided that chitosan is approved by your health care provider.
- Kidney failure
Kidney failure is among the conditions currently being evaluated as a candidate for the supplementation of chitosan, and with good reason: preliminary investigations into the subject have found that kidney failure patients respond well to chitosan supplementation, with significant improvements to symptoms and health in the absence of additional interventions. While the systematic review and meta-analysis of kidney-related improvements remain small, the area of study is promising.
- High cholesterol
High cholesterol is often considered the condition immediately preceded by a chronic high-fat diet, but the supplementation of chitosan has shown promise as an effective intervention for high cholesterol without the many adverse effects reported during pharmaceutical interventions. Serum cholesterol levels may experience a significant decline after taking chitosan regularly, particularly when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and physical activity, along with improvements to symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
What Are the Side Effects of Chitosan Supplements?
Although chitosan is considered a highly safe supplement for conditions such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, there are some adverse effects associated with the supplementation of chitosan, particularly when it is consumed in excess of the recommended amount. The gastric emptying time of chitosan is low, which means that many stomach-related side effects like intestinal inflammation are not common, but do still exist under certain conditions. Oral chitosan ingestion for more than 3 months has been linked to the following adverse effects:
The effects of chitosan are primarily positive, but some people experience nausea when chitosan is consumed in excess in a single sitting, or when it is taken in excess over long periods of time. Adverse effects for this particular type of dietary supplementation are more common in those with existing health conditions, such as intestinal inflammation, rather than healthy adults without any pre-existing conditions or existing issues.
While nausea and constipation are not often bedfellows in lists of adverse effects, constipation is another commonly reported side effect in people who consume higher-than-recommended doses of chitosan. While it may not be a concern worthy of immediately calling your health care provider, it can cause discomfort and an aversion to further supplementation. People with metabolic syndrome and GI conditions may be more likely to experience this particular adverse effect.
- Gas and Upset Stomach
Intestinal inflammation can be soothed by chitosan, but can also be further irritated by the supplement. The intestinal morphology of an individual is going to determine whether or not this adverse effect is present following chitosan supplementation, and different biological aspects including stomach sensitivity and illness will determine how comfortable chitosan dietary supplements are to consume. While gas and upset stomach are adverse events linked to chitosan, they are not usually considered substantial or dangerous.
- Malabsorption of Vitamins and Minerals
Chitosan can be one piece in the puzzle of healthy weight management, but it can also cause issues in the body if it is not utilized carefully and appropriately. When consuming chitosan in large amounts or over extended periods of time, the therapeutic effects are negatively impacted by the possibility of malabsorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and selenium.
- Adverse Events Involving Warfarin
One of the many beneficial biological aspects of chitosan dietary supplementation is the ability of the substance to act as a blood thinner. Because chitosan is a blood thinner, it can negatively interact with drugs prescribed by health care providers, including Warfarin. If any blood thinner or cardiovascular medication is already being used, a healthcare provider may need to assess the viability of chitosan as a dietary supplement.
Chitosan Supplements - Recommended Brands
Because of chitosan's ability to improve fat excretion, it has become a popular ingredient in weight loss supplements. Not all of these dietary supplementation companies and formulas are created equal, however, in terms of efficacy, value, quality, and a lack of potential adverse effects. To help determine which weight loss supplement poses the likelihood of delivering the fewest adverse effects and will make your health care provider happy, we have compiled several of the dietary supplementation offerings that most effectively increase fat excretion, limit body weight gain, and positively impact waist circumference in obese subjects. These offerings include:
Fine Japan's entry into the dietary supplementation game is a strong contender, as it utilizes the benefits of chitosan, oolong tea, bamboo coal, and chlorogenic acid, all of which come together to provide dietary fiber and positively impact the waist circumference of obese subjects to improve health. With positive reviews and at an affordable price point, Calorie Burn Black is a strong contender to improve weight management plans, reduce fat accumulation, and aid in body weight reduction.
If chitosan's effects on body weight and lean body mass are the only weight management tool you're after, NOW Supplements offers a supplement that focuses entirely on chitosan. This can be useful for anyone concerned with the gastric emptying time of their supplements--those with GI tract conditions, for instance--who does not want to have to determine how the different ingredients might interact with their body, but may not provide the most powerful impact on your waist circumference.
KAL Chitosan tablets are also used as a weight management tool, and they are also a singular supplement rather than a blend with other components like green tea extract, green coffee extract, or garcinia cambogia. KAL's tablets provide 750 mg of the compound, compared to many other competitors' lower dosages, which can be beneficial, but can also give some people pause; excess supplementation of chitosan can actually result in doing more harm than good, in the form of adverse events and unwanted side effects. While the product itself is useful, higher doses should be monitored carefully.
Dietary supplementation has become the norm, but many people do not understand the ins and outs of that supplementation, and do not know to keep an eye out for both the signs of adverse effects, and the signs that indicate that a supplement is functioning the way it is supposed to. Chitosan is a supplement with plenty of benefits, including improvements to cholesterol serum levels, improvements to metabolic health, and even potentially improvements to epithelial cell walls, to more effectively administer medication. A systematic review and meta-analysis of chitosan has determined that chitosan can have a hefty impact on body weight gain and overall health, similar to the benefits provided by other weight loss and health supporting supplements like green tea extract without the likelihood of experiencing adverse effects.
The supplementation of chitosan is not yet regulated or moderated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the digestibility of nutrients found in chitosan continues to be proven as the systematic review and meta-analysis of chitosan continues to be pursued. With plenty of studies indicating the positive effects of chitosan (and the few adverse effects associated with this type of supplementations), the supplement continues to make a name as a valuable weight management tool, regardless of whether or not users maintain a high-fat diet or employ a hypocaloric diet or enlist the help of intense exercise routines.