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Chítosan: Bind Fat Cautiously

A Feel 21, Inc. Health Report

There are many ways to lose weight, or, specifically, many ways to eradicate some body fat. Chítosan, a naturally occurring substance in shellfish, is a unique molecule in that it has been reported by researchers to attract fat and carry it, piggyback, through the system, thereby preventing the body from absorbing the fat.

Now, keep in mind that this fat is that contained within food you intake following taking Chítosan as a supplement -- Chítosan will not cruise through your body, detaching the unsightly fat beneath your skin for eventual elimination. That fat has to be exercised off, there's no getting around that.

Also remember that there are good fats that your body requires to survive and thrive. You don't want these to go through your body unabsorbed. Therefore, Chítosan should be taken following label directions.

Chítosan, according to literature supplied by Orcas International, is a polysaccharide commercially derived from chitin, part of the shell structures of crustaceans. Its chemical structure is known as polyglucosamine. "In addition to Chítosan's lipid-absorption abilities as a viscous dietary fiber, Chítosan also possesses the characteristic binding of anion such as free fatty acids due to its positive molecular charge, at low pH by ionic bonding," the literature explains.

Following ingestion, Chítosan forms a corresponding fatty acid salt in the low-pH environment of your stomach; this in turn binds to other lipids such as triglycerides, fatty and bile acids, cholesterol and other sterols. As the material does not get wet, the Chítosan fatty acid salt is not hydrolyzed by hydrochloric acid. When this complex is shuttled into the intestine (where there is an increase in pH to approximately 6.9), Chítosan precipitates forming microglobular particles. Along the way, additional lipids will also be attracted and thus the size of this complex grows. Bound triglycerides are escaping lipase degradation and the lipid material is finally excreted along with the Chítosan fiber itself.

This fat absorption activity of Chítosan has been investigated in several clinical studies. Orcas literature notes that one rat study has shown synergistic effects in fat absorption between Chítosan and ascorbate when fed together. "The mechanism for the synergistic effect is proposed to be a combination of viscosity reduction in the stomach and the increase of the oil-holding capacity and strength of the Chítosan gel formed in the intestinal tract," the literature offers.

A four-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 80 obese adults showed that 11.2 percent of those who took Chítosan had a decrease in body weight, compared to 4.2 percent in the placebo group.

Dr. Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph,D., in his book, Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible, explains that Chítosan acts like a "'fat sponge.' As it passes through the digestive tract it can absorb four to six times its weight in fat, thereby flushing it out of the body before it can metabolized and stored as excess pounds."

However, Mindell is quick to caution that Chítosan is not a cure for overeating, and should not be used as an allowance to pig out on fatty foods.

"Chítosan binds to fats and reduces the absorption of cholesterol and fats from the digestive system into the body," writes Daniel Gastelu in The Complete Nutritional Supplement Buyer's Guide. Gastelu advises that since Chítosan may reduce the absorption of certain essential nutrients, you should ensure you take a multivitamin and mineral complex between meals "to ensure adequate nutrient bioavailability. Take other dietary supplements between meals as well to minimize the possibility that Chítosan may interfere with their absorption," he says.

In particular, pointed out Mindell, Chítosan can steal your internal supply of vitamins E, A, D and K, the fat-soluble vitamins; ensure your intake of these is more than adequate when taking Chítosan.

Besides binding with fat, Chítosan can play a positive role in managing cholesterol. According to the Physicians Desk Reference for Nutritional Supplements, First Edition (Thomas Healthcare), "Chítosan may have hypocholesterolemic activity in some and may be beneficial in renal disease in some. It is believed that Chítosan, similar to cholestryamine, has bile acid sequestration activity and that this may be the mechanism for its hypocholesterolemic effect. There is some evidence that Chítosan binds to bile acids and some evidence that the polymer affects the metabolism of intestinal bile acids."

Literature from Orcas elaborates that Chítosan, in this activity, also combines with cholesterol precursors -- cholic acid, taurocholic acid, glycolic acid, dodecylsulfuri acid and bile acid -- which then inhibits the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. in one study, Veneroni, et al. showed a total cholesterol reduction of 23.9 percent with Chítosan supplementation compared to that of the control group which was 10.4 percent. Additionally, LDL cholesterol reduction of 33.4 percent and triglyceride reduction of 23.5 percent in the Chítosan group compared to the control group, which was 12.1 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively.

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This article is reprinted with permission from Vitamin Retailer magazine and is provided for educational purposes only by your local retailer. No part of this article is intended as medical advice. Always consult your health care provider for any medical problems. If you have or suspect an illness or have a health concern, always consult with your physician or health care provider. We have used our best judgment in compiling this information, however, the information presented may not have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any reference to a specific product is for your information only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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